As we charge headfirst into February, hands up if a) you made a New Year’s Resolution a month or so ago, and b) you are still on track to achieve it. Mmmmm, I thought not!
If you want to know the percentage of people who fail to keep their New Year’s Resolutions, there are various statistics at the push of an internet search button. The overwhelming message though, is that only a teeny-weeny number of people stay on track for the whole year, with the majority saying, ‘Bluh, I give up,’ within the first month.
There are many reasons for failing in our quests – temptation being a major one. By this, I mean the temptation to carry on as we are, and not put ourselves out of our comfort zone. Of course, there are other tangible temptations…that slither of cake, a dribble of wine, one last little puff on a cigarette or the zillions of nearly-affordable bargains in the January sales.
If anyone set themselves the target to stop eating meat and become a vegetarian on January 1, you will know that this is an all-or-nothing target, which requires an overnight shift in your thinking. But, let’s face it, taking a cold turkey approach to vegetarianism isn’t easy. Especially when there are, most likely, a few more delicious cold turkey, crispy stuffing and brown sauce sandwiches still to be consumed.
In this example, people will fail because they have got their timing all wrong. Other reasons for giving up include:
• Setting unrealistic goals and expectations;
• Not seeing the immediate benefits;
• Not seeing the cause and effect and becoming discouraged e.g. believing that, if you lose weight, your whole life will change/improve;
• Having limited self-belief and negative mind chatter;
• Not having the support of others.
What many people don’t realise, is that New Year’s Resolutions involve changing behaviours and mind-sets, and these require the rewiring of our brains. Through the use of MRIs, brain scientists and psychotherapists have discovered that habitual behaviours are created by neural pathways and memories.
When faced with a decision (carrot or carrot cake?), these neural pathways and memories become our default setting. By trying to change our default setting and think about not eating the carrot cake, we just strengthen the neural pathway. How many times have you heard yourself say, ‘I mustn’t, I mustn’t, I mustn’t, I MUST!’
For change to be lasting, it requires new neural pathways to be created from new thinking, which is reinforced regularly, over time. This is a fantastic film clip, which Laughology presenters use, to demonstrate the point: You Tube Neuroplasticity
So, if that’s what it takes to change personal behaviours, what is the key to successfully driving forward lasting, positive change in schools?
This is a pertinent and timely question. All schools should be striving to continually improve, however we are faced with challenging times in the world of education. In particular, we know that recruitment and retention of staff is difficult at the moment and that morale within the profession is at a tipping point.
In 2015, a report was commissioned by the Teacher Development Trust, with support from TES Global, which found that: ‘The duration and rhythm of effective CPD (Continuing Professional Development) support requires a longer-term focus – at least two terms to a year or longer is most effective, with follow up, consolidation and support activities built in.’
This makes perfect sense. So often, teachers attend a training event and leave it enthused, ready to change the world. Or, at least, ready to change aspects of their own and their colleagues’ classroom practice – only for the demands of school life to get in the way!
How often have you come away from a course with a list of important jobs; some key messages to share and/or a host of creative ideas bubbling under the surface, just needing to be nurtured? And how often have the jobs on your list become less important, as the days go by without action? How often do the key messages get lost in the ether, or not given at all? And what happened to those ideas that, without being given time and headroom to blossom, have withered and died?
The findings of the Teacher Development Trust are reiterated by the Education Endowment Fund (EEF), which states that: ‘The type and quality of CPD that schools use really matters when it comes to improving teacher quality and pupil attainment.’ The EEF goes on to say that CPD is most effective when it is supported by the school’s leadership team; sustained over longer periods of time; includes expert input and opportunities for peer collaboration and reflection.
At Laughology, this has got us thinking and nodding our heads vigorously. We know that our one-off keynote speeches, INSET and twilight sessions do make a real difference – evidenced by the extremely positive feedback and repeat bookings that we receive. But we also know that, by working in partnership with schools, businesses and organisations over longer periods of time, we are even better able to support highly effective organisational and cultural changes.
By getting to know a school and its stakeholders well, we can:
• Support the leadership team to develop a change story, set realistic goals and expectations;
• Foster understanding and conviction, by explaining the neuroscience and research behind behavioural change;
• Fully engage pupils, staff, governors and parents, by providing bespoke training in a humorous way and in manageable chunks;
• Ensure that momentum builds, and the focus is unwavering, through regular visits;
• Make sure that the wellbeing of staff and pupils underpins all other activities;
• Promote a sustainable model, by facilitating collaboration, consolidation; reflection and a ‘feedback loop’.
• Help leaders and their teams to recognise and celebrate their successes.
I would suggest that you can’t afford to be turkeys with whole school improvement. Instead, you should engage the services of the Laughology team today. Then you really will be able to have your carrot cake and eat it.