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Navigating Turbulence

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Higher-Powered Learning Navigating Turbulence

Turbulence is a fairly common occurrence on plane rides. Although you get the occasional smooth ride, most flights involve at least a few jumps and shakes. I consider these rough patches to be an unavoidable part of almost every one of my travel experiences, and I think this can be a metaphor for many areas of life.

This turbulence analogy resonates most for me when thinking about implementing blended learning. I have watched and walked alongside hundreds of teachers and school leaders as they undertake the challenge of shifting their classrooms from a traditional model to a blended one, and not a single one has said that the process was completely smooth.

So, what should you do when you feel overwhelmed with, confused by, or simply fed up with blended learning? How do we advise teachers and school leaders to navigate the turbulence?  

  1. Don’t make an emergency landing. Can you imagine if your pilot decided to immediately make an emergency landing the first moment the plane encountered a rough patch of air? Our first instinct when we feel scared or unsure of ourselves is to revert to what we know. Many teachers want to go back to a traditional classroom model when the going gets tough with blended learning. But it’s important to lean into our challenges, understand them, and use them to grow. We have to learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable if we are going to grow in our practice as teachers and leaders.

  2. Be honest and communicate. When a plane hits turbulence in the air, the best pilots come over the speaker to alert the passengers of what is going on. Failing to communicate causes people to panic because they don’t know what is going on or how to respond. Similarly, teachers and leaders who find themselves in a particularly challenging period should honestly communicate with students, parents, and colleagues about the challenges they are facing.

    For example, one of the teachers in our Higher-Powered Learning Program recently realized that the software program he was using with his students was not meeting their needs. Instead of pushing ahead and ignoring the problem or simply abandoning blended learning altogether, he was simply honest with his school leader, his students, and us. He informed each of these different stakeholders of the problems he was encountering and gave us opportunities to ask questions and offer our input. I valued his honesty in this situation, and I imagine his principal and students did as well.

  3. Try to find the smoother road ahead. Turbulence is a normal part of any journey, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re immersed in it from the moment you take off. If you’re experiencing a particularly challenging time as you implement blended learning, try to figure out what would make it easier for you and how to make that a reality. Take a step back and reflect on the program thus far. Do you need to try a different software program or model to better meet the needs of your students? Do you need additional support from other adults in your school? And don’t be afraid to reach out to experts or others in your school for support. Remember that things will get easier as long as you continue taking steps in the right direction. Be patient, but do not become complacent.

  4. Don’t blame yourself. Finally, many factors beyond our control influence our success. It is important to accept responsibility for the role you play in the program implementation’s success without assigning all of the blame to yourself. Feelings of blame, guilt, or shame about hitting a rough patch will not help you grow and improve. We encourage you to honestly evaluate what you might have done differently, but also recognize that you are learning and mistakes are part of the process! Adults need a growth mindset, too.

If you know teachers or school leaders navigating turbulence right now, send them to this post and let them know that they are not alone! We all have to make it through rough patches to reach our final destinations.