Challenging the Status Quo (Safely)

At the end of #YRDSBQuest, Michael Fullan told the educators in attendance that they need to go back and challenge the status quo.

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I am documenting the ongoing conversation about how to do this safely.

We rarely talk about it, but in our work, many educators have told us they won’t blog because they are afraid it will show others “what they don’t know”.  They see leaders in education as people who will label them as being inappropriate for leadership roles.

We talk a lot about how we want a growth mindset for our students, yet conversations with aspiring leaders demonstrate that challenging leaders can result in a label – “not moving up in this organization”.

How do we build a system that values challenge to the status quo? How do we challenge the status quo without jeopardizing our careers in the current environment?

Below is the conversation currently developing.  Please add to the conversation and help push our thinking about how we can best effect change – how those wanting to challenge can do so effectively.

You can continue to follow the tweet replies here.  We encourage you to also join the conversation by commenting on the blog.

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In addition, Seth Godin shared this post on his blog this morning:

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Shared by Seth Godin on his blog here:

11 thoughts on “Challenging the Status Quo (Safely)”

    1. Agreed.

      However, there is too much evidence to ignore it.

      Many of our most innovative thinkers get crushed in their organizations.

      I think this concept is so important for leaders: The Willingness to be Disturbed:

      Connected educators self-direct their learning in rich learning environments, and they become accustomed to challenging thinking, sharing resources, and learning together.

      It is hard, then, to return to a top-down model that does not embrace connected learning, knowledge building and owning your own learning.

      We have a huge disconnect between the learning happening at edCamps, on social media and through PLNs and the version of content delivery that is so prevalent in “professional development”. Educators who self-direct their learning and know the kinds of innovation they want to see become frustrated when they bump up against the brick walls that don’t understand their thinking.

      “Status quo is a loser” (Michael Fullan), and we have to find a way to enable those who went way past the status quo long ago, yet continue to be held back by those who won’t allow their certainty to be disrupted.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.


  1. The biggest issue here lies in the myriad of positions and emphasis people have when challenging the status quo. Most everyone agrees education needs fixing. What exactly needs fixing is the never ending discussion. Politicians, for example, have a very different view that many educators. Even within each of these groups there is enough difference that make a coherent and consistent conversation about change extremely difficult.

    The idea of telling teachers to go back and challenge the status quo is somewhat naive I think. I feel that rather than acting independently, groups need to work on messaging and key talking points and work to stay on point.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to engage in, and comment on, this conversation. I have been thinking a lot about your last point – that we need to work together to have key talking points.

      I take that as a challenge going forward. What are the messages that will help educators, parents, community members and politicians challenge their thinking about what education is and needs to be?

      I will work to collate and share these. It is worthwhile work.


  2. When I read your post, I had so many thoughts. It’s pretty easy to sit on a stool and encourage teachers to challenge the status quo. As you point out, how? I love how Dean makes it simply by focusing on key messages and sticking to them. Critical mass is important. You can’t do it by yourself. As a district leader, I too sometimes hesitate to speak up – is it the right time for my voice to be heard! What can I contribute to the conversation without shutting it down? And if it’s hard for me….

    I also believe in the power of the individual conversation. My job is all about influence, and influence generally happens one person at a time, maybe two if I’m lucky!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I live as an educator in a risk taking mode daily. I have been a lead teacher and have failed to consider that most people like feeling comfortable and predictable. I see it as being in different states of anxiety. One is protection and one is falling down with a net. The major negative around preferring to fall down is consistent disorganized structure. If I am supposed to persuade as a leader then I am proposing that my way is best. We are not in the business of manufacturing robots. Every classroom, every brain and every feeling has a narrative. This is why comparing eqao testing from year to year is questionable, yet it seems to have a significant impact in housing prices and our economic decisions.

    Liked by 1 person

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