Finding a Cure for Initiative Fatigue

businesswoman sleeping on stack of books

A teacher walks into the doctor’s office. “Doc, I don’t know what’s wrong, but I feel tired all the time. Just totally drained.”

The doctor performs a thorough physical exam and asks a series of questions. “How many more weeks of classes?”

“Two.”

“Bet you can’t wait for summer.”

The teacher nods. “Especially this year. With the Common Core and these new teacher performance metrics, it’s hard.”

“So they’ve got you doing a lot of new things at school then?”

“Seems like there’s a new requirement every day.”

“I see.” The doctor makes a couple of notes and looks up.

“What’s wrong with me, doc?”

“It’s called initiative fatigue. And your my fifth case this week.”

Spend a day or two walking the halls of your neighborhood high school and it’s apparent the kind of year it’s been for the nation’s teachers. Cutbacks and new testing requirements have taken their toll. From the front office to the classroom, everybody everywhere is ready for a break.

A couple of months to reflect and recharge might seem like the perfect antidote. But the reprieve is only temporary. The new school year promises to usher in a fresh set of priorities and requirements. Getting faculty and staff to buy into these reforms—whether it’s a new online testing model, professional development, performance evaluation, or other change—necessitates fresh stores of motivation and energy.

Author and education researcher Charlotte Danielson recently explored the link between initiative fatigue and classroom reforms. Though Danielson’s research, explained in this Education Week article, focuses on the Common Core, her findings are applicable to other systemic initiatives—a new technology project, for example.

While change does not come easy, Danielson says most educators are up to the task—provided that they understand what’s expected of them and are equipped with the skills and resources to get the job done.

“There is significant recognition that new adjustments will require perseverance and even struggle,” writes Danielson.

Across the board, educators said training was essential to their success and that, whatever the project, they needed time to adequately familiarize themselves with the content. They also sought stronger measures of personal mastery and access to advice from experienced peers who had achieved previous success.

Want to get faculty committed to and excited about a new reform on the books for next fall? Take the summer to thoroughly assess every facet of the program. Then ask yourself this question: Am I giving my staff the tools and resources they need to succeed?

If the answer is yes, you might have a cure for initiative fatigue.

Author: Corey Murray

Education writer and editor

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