Change and Program Persistence
A few years back, little board books with scratch and sniff patches on the pages were popular with young children. Children would scratch and sniff the pages eagerly over and over to investigate different choices. The process reminds one of Sniff, a character from the bestselling book by Spencer Johnson (1998, 2002), Who Moved My Cheese? Sniff checks the air and the situation out before deciding to make the choice to move on. This is a process with which many in adult and family literacy programs are becoming familiar. Change is a word and process we grapple with more and more in work settings. Dealing with funding cuts and program loss are changes we do not want. So, where is the cheese now and how do we find it?
The simple story, Who Moved My Cheese? (Johnson, 1998, 2002), is set in the maze of life or work. The characters tackle the problem of the cheese being cut and finally disappearing in predictably different ways. An easy read, it is a story which lends itself to the issues confronting literacy programs today. “The handwriting on the wall” left by the character, Haw, enlightens the reader to easier and quicker ways to meet change successfully and with less stress.
Think about the maze or work place or community you work in. Scratched on the wall in your maze is “the handwriting on the wall,” as highlighted in the book Who Moved My Cheese? To summarize the sage advice: (1) change does happen; (2) be ready for it; (3) check periodically for small changes; (4) adjust for change quickly; (5) make the change; (6) appreciate change; and (7) adapt to changes frequently (Johnson, 1998, 2002, p. 74).
Change is a process. To survive change and the stress that comes with it, individuals must be ready to persist and have a plan of action to put into motion. In the case of adult and family literacy programming, one might consider adopting a different program model. Can the community’s needs be met another way? What other resources can be tapped into and combined to see that the community’s needs are met?
Assessing Community Needs
For example, a family literacy program in the Midwest uses a home-based model facilitated with children’s literature to address the needs of families assigned to a military base in the area. A program in East Texas focuses on adults living in public housing to reach families by providing services for adults and children delivered in the community center. A program in Coastal Texas focuses on an after school tutorial program for children similar to the model adapted by the 21st Century Community Learning Center Project. All three examples address the four basic program elements of the Even Start Program, but have designed activities that are specific to the needs of each respective community.
In adapting models and collaborating, will other sources of funding become available? Investigate funding opportunities beyond the realm of family literacy. Many grant programs are being designed that do not have direct links to family literacy, but would provide partnership opportunities to support related activities that would further the mission of family literacy. The key to success in obtaining funding is to be proactive in the search. In research conducted by Ann Martinez Gundy in 1999, approximately 50 percent of the programs that did not continue past the initial funding did not seek additional grants (Martinez, 1999, p. 65.).
Managing During Change
Adjusting to change can be expressed in a variety of ways, including fear and confusion. Each individual has their own reactions and time table. Usual reactions to change are often reflected in the Kübler-Ross grief model. A transition may include or move from denial, anger, bargaining, and depression to acceptance (Wikipedia, 2006). Tips for managing others during change from the Wisconsin Office of State Employment Relations include: (1) communicate clearly and frequently; (2) be a good listener; (3) be available; (4) be sympathetic and patient with reactions to changes; (5) provide opportunity for appropriate expression of anger; (6) exemplify and expect good job performance; (7) be alert, refer for help; and (8) know your own limits in getting involved with others’ problems (2006). In managing oneself, remember to remain flexible and reflect, reassess, ritualize, rehearse, and relax. Seek support from relationships and get help with stress response symptoms (OSER, 2006).
A Better Model Can Emerge
Sniff your cheese. Check it periodically for small changes.
- What program activities are working well and meeting program objectives?
- What program activities are effective and efficient based on available resources of personnel, expertise, space, and funding?
- What program activities can be delivered and supported through partnership agreements?
- Be open to new ideas and ways to meet program objectives.
Change and program persistence are a process and plan many are going through. The key is “going through.” We must remember to keep a sense of humor about the process, like Haw in Who Moved My Cheese? Program persistence is similar to successful student persistence. Both rely on changes being relevant to oneself and adapting to a quickly changing society—in other words, expecting cheese to be moved and finding new cheese often.
Johnson, Spencer (1998, 2002). Who Moved My Cheese? New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
Martinez, A. (1999). Life after funding: A descriptive study of Even Start Family Literacy Programs that have completed the initial funding cycle. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Dissertation Services.
Wikipedia (2006). Kübler-Ross model. Retrieved June 14, 2006 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Stages_of_Grief
Wisconsin Office of State Employment Relations (2006). Coping With Change in the Workplace. Retrieved June 14, 2006 from http://oser.state.wi.us/section_detail.asp?linkcatid=341