By Jeanie Greenidge, AVID Staff Developer, Secondary AVID Coordinator, Garland Independent School District
No…don’t stop reading. Stay with me.
Even the phrase “buy-in” sounds tasteless, doesn’t it? It provokes images of charismatic charlatans hawking the latest and greatest solutions to cure all ills. In education, we recognize these panaceas as the latest initiative imposed upon us by our district, adding to our already-crowded workload. We—educational practitioners—are relentlessly inundated with the products of well-intentioned “edu-preneurs” who want to sell us strategies and innovations purported to raise achievement and solve all of our issues, running the gamut from pedagogy to performance.
Educators will recognize this cycle: Typically, school districts invest mightily in these initiatives, but they are implemented only halfheartedly and without oversight or follow-up. There does not seem to be any accountability. There is limited, sometimes ineffective professional development. After a short honeymoon time, the enthusiasm wanes. The negativity rises. A disconnect grows, developing into a chasm, and when the results are not as promised, the initiative is “rendered ineffective” and abandoned. Door shut. That is all.
BUT WAIT…AVID DOES IT BETTER!
The number one question that I am asked as a secondary AVID coordinator in my district, as well as when I serve as an AVID staff developer, is: “How do I get buy-in for AVID at my school?”
For a start, let’s agree to talk about “belief” instead of “buy-in.” AVID does not purport to fix our students and teachers because AVID knows that there is nothing wrong with them. For now, let’s presume a positive intent. AVID is not like any other educational initiative. It is not superficial. AVID—implemented with fidelity on a campus or in a district—is intrinsic and impactful. To implement AVID authentically is a challenging, time-consuming process. It takes time to shift culture. We are, after all, not selling a remedy or something outside of ourselves. AVID, instead, is more than one initiative coming down from the mountaintop. AVID changes us from within—within our schools, within our students and their families, and within ourselves as educators—trying to make the world a better place. This change is profound and long lasting. It does not happen quickly, but over time.
HOW DO I CREATE BELIEVERS ON MY CAMPUS
(OR IN MY DISTRICT, OR WITH MY FAMILIES, OR IN MY COMMUNITY)?
Business and marketing specialists provide us with a useful five-step rubric for creating solid groundwork for change. It seems to me that it applies to AVID implementation, as well. With my apologies to Wall Street and to ocupreneur and business super coach, Lindsay Broder, here is a revised five-step process for bringing belief to your school. Remember, rather than a step-by-step list, imagine that these five steps are on a circular clock face. Be prepared to revisit these steps out of sequence, if necessary.
Lay Out the Vision
This is the compelling “why” of AVID. The AVID site team at your district and school has to be knowledgeable enough to state clearly the positives of AVID implementation. This is the result of Summer Institute or Path training, where your team can hear firsthand the difference that AVID can make in the life of a student. When the compelling “why” of AVID begins to gets murky, always go back to your students. If AVID is too young in your district or school, get students from a nearby district or school to tell their AVID stories.
This is where your remarkable site team divides up tasks related to AVID implementation on your campus. Be clear with each person on your implementation team about how their work is vital to the outcome. When you speak about AVID best practices on your campus, have your site team available as experts for questions and concerns. This makes AVID implementation organic to your campus.
Check in with teachers often. Attend departmental meetings and PLCs, and be available for questions and/or concerns. Open up your classroom doors so that others can see AVID at work in your classrooms. At first, teachers will not even know what questions they should ask, so prepare your team to collaborate with others and stay connected.
Nip Resistance in the Bud
The administration can help their site’s AVID implementation by acting as the bridge from compliance (i.e., everyone follows site team guidelines because leadership asks them to) to commitment (i.e., everyone sees how using AVID strategies helps student achievement, so they follow the guidelines because they work). Complaints about AVID need to be addressed early. Negative talk at sites or in districts can snowball.
Be Prepared to Change the Change
Your AVID Site Plan and/or District Strategic Plan needs to be a dynamic blueprint, one subject to change, and open to well-intentioned adjustments suggested by your community and stakeholders. Value your community suggestions by including them in your implementation.
Changing the culture, systems, instruction, and leadership of schools or districts takes positivity, perseverance, passion, and professionalism. It has to be authentic and real, and start from within. Superficial initiatives change school and community cultures from the outside in. AVID changes cultures from the inside out. Let’s move our district and school cultures from buy-in to belief by implementing AVID with fidelity and authenticity. Experiencing the graduation and college acceptance of that student who would never have considered college a possibility for herself or himself without AVID is inexpressibly satisfying. Creating a community of believers who hold up our students’ potential, rather than consumers who “buy-in” to the latest edu-initiative, is so worth the effort. There is nothing like it, believe me.
Jeanie Greenidge is a Secondary AVID Coordinator for Garland Independent School District in Garland, Texas. Before that she was the AVID Elective Teacher/Coordinator at O’Banion Middle School. O’Banion is an AVID National Demonstration School. She taught for 17 years. Her passions include curriculum design, literacy education, and college readiness.
For more on AVID, visit http://avid.org/what-is-avid.ashx.
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