We are “The System”

Throughout my career I have been privy to a number of conversations, debates, and discussions amongst educators on various educational initiatives and approaches.  During these discussions I have heard people refer to “The System” or “The District” in ways such as, “The System needs to change” or “The District ought to do something about that!”  It’s as though “The System” is some separate entity that we are distant from. What we need to realize is that WE ARE THE SYSTEM and if something needs changing or something needs to be done, WE need to be first-in-line to act.

Now some of the changes that you deem necessary will be within your circle of influence.  As such, you will likely be able to make these changes rather quickly in order for you to grow and become the kind of professional that you want to become.  In other situations we see that changes are needed but we don’t hold a position that puts us inside that particular circle of influence.  For example, you might identify something within the district that needs to change from a practice or policy perspective, however, not having a position at Central Office may lead you to believe that there is nothing you can do or that your opinion doesn’t matter.  For me, this is far too passive and emphasizes position rather than influence. Leadership is about influence, not title, and anyone can make that happen and everything is within our circle of concern.  Stephen Covey once wrote:

I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a transformer.  It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader.”

If we don’t hold a position of authority or a potential change is outside our circle of responsibility then we need to bring the message to those that do and make it loud and clear what it is we believe is necessary for our organization to grow.

While doing so, it is also important to bring that message of change to those who need to hear it in a way that is respectfully grounded in ideas that are sound and supported.  Using sensational language, putting people on the defensive, or attacking people personally (rather than focusing on ideas) will only serve to create more challenges and roadblocks along the way.

You are the system, you can make a difference, and you could be the reason why your classroom, school, district, or even province/state changes forever. Don’t sit back and wait for others to do what you know needs to happen. The time is now and the person is YOU!

8 thoughts on “We are “The System”

  1. Well put. Too many people feel like they are mean pawns in a game that they are watching from the sideline — when in fact, they are knee deep in it all.

    I too believe that anyone of us can make a difference — that being said, we can do far more when when we have like-minded colleagues who we can collaborate with. And yet every team starts with a member of one just like every marathon starts with one step. The idea is that we never stop at just one – we are in this together.

    Thanks for this post


    • Thanks for commenting Joe. I would even go farther and say that without like-minded colleagues any sustainable change is not possible. The seeds can be planted by one person, but in order to gain the critical mass we need to build a team to maintain any momentum that is achieved early on in the process. I appreciate you taking the time to read/comment! Tom

  2. This is such an inspiring post. I agree so much with it. Each individual holds the power to influence and change what is happening. It takes way more energy to complain about the situation. People just need to take some risks and do something about it. Each small change would affect the larger whole. If people worked together and collaborated even more, just think what could happen.

    Thanks for your post,

    • Thanks Tia. I think it can be our nature to doubt our ability to make a difference and be that person who takes the risk and does something in response to a situation that is not as it should be. Do it in the right way, but never be afraid to take the first step toward a more favourable and appropriate circumstance! Thanks for taking the time to read & comment! Tom

  3. As a student hoping to become a teacher, this post has great meaning. I feel every pre-service teacher needs to become aware of the idea that We Are the System. I agree with your statement that if “change is outside our circle of responsibility then we need to bring the message to those that do and make it loud and clear. ” I think that if teachers come together to be heard then anything can happen. Making a change comes from one idea that blossoms into an action.
    Thank you for your post.

    • Thanks Autumn. I don’t think anyone should every underestimate their ability to “be the change” they wish to see in the system. “What is now proved once only imagined” is one of my favorite quotes (William Blake). Teachers who live in the world-of-possibility are always able to influence the system to be the best it can be! Thanks for reading my post!

  4. I agree with Tia in saying that your post is really inspiring. I know a lot of people who have just given up on thinking about making a difference. They feel so downtrodden about society and believe there is nothing they can do to change their circumstance. However, I know this isn’t true. A lot of people like to call themselves realists but take on this negative downtrodden mentality. They call me optimistic because I cannot accept that we will not make a difference. It is shown throughout history that it took only one person, one spark, to ignite a passionate flame within hundreds and thousands of people to make a change. Thank you for your post. It is a great wake up call to everyone as well as an inspiration.

    Mary (an EDM 310 student at the University of South Alabama)

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