Recently I was training teachers on vocabulary instructional strategies and left them with this piece of advice, “Take one small bit at a time.” It is the same advice I provide when mentoring first year teachers and is applicable anytime we learn something new. Oftentimes we desire to make a personal change, especially after acquiring new information, but loose steam early in the process because it becomes overwhelming. We overwhelm ourselves either from taking on too much in the change process or comparing ourselves to others who are further along. Thus, the need to take one small step at a time when implementing a change.
When looking to make an improvement, we must complete an analysis of the situation—not only the current state, but also the desired change. For the vocabulary training, I asked teachers to reflect upon their current practices and the instructional strategies introduced. They were to review the new strategies to find one which would be easy for them to implement. Then, incorporate the new strategy for multiple days of instruction. Once it became second nature, then add another strategy. By taking it one strategy at a time, teachers can reflect upon the instructional progress being made and make adjustments if necessary. Additionally, it sets the foundation for incremental success. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the process, teachers were able to make continual growth in their instructional practices over time.
This cycle of change can be applied to any new learning, not just to teachers. (1) Analyze- your current state and what is necessary to make the change; (2) Implement- one small step to get you closer to change you desire; (3) Reflect- upon progress and make adjustments, if necessary; (4) Celebrate- your success; and (5) Repeat.
Remember, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.