Moneyball and Education. However, I tend to watch movies more than once, and even though it was about half way through, I decided to tune in for the last 45 minutes.
Near the conclusion of the movie, Oakland General Manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) is being interviewed by Tom Werner, one of the owners of the Boston RedSox. Werner is trying to woo Beane to Boston: he believed that the revolutionary (and highly controversial and opposed) way that Billy Beane was using statistical research rather the more traditional 'eye of the talent scout' and 'gut feeling' approach taken in the past. While the clip starts out with a bit of a tour of Fenway Park (which is of special interest to me), the part that really struck me begins right around the two minute mark:
Specifically, the piece where Tom Werner refers to the struggles that Beane was having with the traditionalists in Baseball and says:
"I know you're taking it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall....he ALWAYS gets bloody. It's a threat. Not only to the way of doing business, but a threat to the game. Which ultimately is a threat to their livelihood. Their jobs. They way that they do things."
Over the past six years that I have been at my school, we have made numerous changes. We have changed our timetable. We have introduced collaborative time for our teachers. We have created invitational tutorial time. We have made directive intervention time. We have confronted and changed grading practices, and provide students with multiple opportunities to meet learning outcomes. We have changed the way we approach school improvement plans. We have created free wi-fi. We have unblocked social media sites. We encourage BYOD. We are changing faculty and leadership team meetings. We are changing our library to a learning hub. And there are still more things that we will look at in the future.
Some would believe that these changes are for the better. Some would think that the changes have had little impact on our school. And some would think that these changes have made our school sub-standard in comparison to what it was in the past. But regardless of the perceptions of the impact of these changes, one thing is for sure: change is not easy, especially if there are not instant results to help ameliorate some of the challenges come with change. Examining and confronting 'the way we do things
around here' can cause a great deal of angst and dyspepsia, even for highly supportive people in our organization. And I have seen it first hand.
As much as I am proud of the changes that we have made, I look back at the way that I went about engineering some of those changes early on in my time at our school with regret. I could have done things differently, and more specifically, I could have done things better. I could have went slower. I could have done a more thorough job of creating meaning and a sense of urgency. I could have involved more people. I could have listened more and spoken less. Hindsight has provided me endless opportunities to fret about and reflect upon what I could have done better. To borrow from Tom Werner, I might not have went 'first', but I went through the wall early with some of the things we did. I took it in the teeth whenever there was a negative that could be attributed to the changes that were made. I definitely got bloody.
But that's change, isn't it? I have read more books and articles on change than I care to remember. Different ideas from theoreticians and practitioners, from colleagues and from my PLN. Building trust. Developing relationships. Engaging stakeholders. Creating urgency. Pressure and support. There are so many phrases that go along with change.
But at the end of the day, I find change to be challenging. Messy. Controversial. But then it happens, and we adapt. And as much as I wish that I could have done a number of things differently, over the last 6 years we have changed. And I believe in the changes that we have made, because our students are more successful than they ever have been. Our high achieving students still achieve at a high level, and our promising learners are more engaged and successful than they ever have been. And I believe that as a staff, we have grown together through the changes. I know that I have learned much from our teachers--I always learn from our teachers.
In the end, I guess what I appreciate about Billy Beane and the concepts of sabermetrics that he took from Bill James and adopted for his team is that he knew it would be challenging. Messy. Controversial. He got bloody. But in the end, he stuck with it, his team adapted, and now, so has all of baseball. Because it was the right thing to do.
Change is difficult, but if we stay focused on the idea that the innovation that we are advancing is sound in its rationale and research and ultimately the right thing to do, I think it makes our collective foreheads a little bit harder for when we hit that wall similar to the one that Beane did in Moneyball.