Discomfort in Change

One universal principle associated with change is discomfort. When a person chooses to change their physical reality and engage in a fitness program, the change process does not began until there is discomfort. When a person wants to change fiscal and spending habits, there is a point where the desire to spend clashes with the demands of fiscal responsibility; and there is discomfort. Schools are no different. We cannot have comfort and growth at the same time. I am not suggesting that we seek and accept excruciating pain, but we have to be willing to be made uncomfortable if we want to grow individually and collectively. I have outlined two steps to help us understand and regulate the discomfort. The first step is for the individual and the second step is systemic.

Step #1 – Read professional literature at least two hours per week

One of the greatest discomforts of change is cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance occurs when new ideas challenge established ideas causing an internal conflict. I have seen this phenomenon many times in my career. Some of the catalysts of cognitive dissonance are changes to grading practices, student disciplinary procedures, and instruction. Educators tend to have very strong opinions about educational norms and practices and when a new idea emerges that challenges those opinions, an ugly philosophical clash is typically the result. I have made it a practice, since my first year of teaching, to spend at least 30 minutes per day reading educational literature. This habit has allowed me to explore and consider ideas and process them on my own terms. Consequently, when I came in contact with philosophical changes in the workplace, I did not have a feeling of loss or anxiety. I had already processed many of these philosophies on my own and I was prepared to accept the change or challenge it from the wealth of theories and practices that I studied on my own.

Step #2 – Set up pilots

Pilot programs are underutilized in educational circles. We tend to jump into a new programs and practices feet first without a whole lot of beta testing. I have found that most people are not opposed to change when there is clear evidence that the new direction is likely to be more effective than the old direction. When schools or districts jump into change without a period of trial, problems emerge during system-wide implementation that create inconvenience, doubt, and indifference toward the process. I have found that schools or districts that take the time to pilot their new systems with a willing group of professionals work out logistical kinks, collect data that validates the process, and create advocates who influence others to try the process.


  1. I spent an evening and day listening to Dr.Muhammad speak. I appreciated the depth of thought that went into the presentation. The metaphor of “soil” as what school culture is was very helpful. Hope Dr. Muhammad made it home in time to watch the Spartan victory.
    Thank you.
    Michael Abercrombie

  2. A regular day in my hnsmechooliog daughter’s life (12 years old):Animal choresFeed her sourdough starter and then bake something: bagels, boule bread Read current bookListen to current audio book for a few hours as she multi-tasks with cleaning, coloring, etc.Build or create something, she’s always spontaneously building and creating.Play imaginative games with her toys (she does this a lot!)Go out with me to do business and other errands. I run a business from home.Visit family and friends (a few times a week)Make dinner togetherPlay with neighborhood childrenWatch series or documentary at nightRead books together in bed, do projects, activity books, writing etc. Night is our time for the most productive things together.Of course other days look different. We have homeschool classes, homeschool groups, library classes, theater and volunteer jobs. Every day is another beautiful, different and free day!

  3. That sounds like a fun day! When I was younger, our family would play numerous games of Yahtzee and rummy. It was such a good time! I don’t know how to play Parcheesi and I never had a Spirograph, but Shrinky Dinks were seriously cool, still are!

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