The Tyranny of the TTWWADI and Why Change Is So Hard

I’m in a new role this year, having been elected last spring to serve as the president of our education association. We’re also heading into a full contract bargain this coming spring.

As I’ve been learning about contract negotiations (and the posturing, games, and politics involved), I keep asking myself a very simple question: Why does it have to be this way? Why the “us” vs. “them”? Why the feeling like it’s all about sliding back-and-forth a series of numbers face down on scraps of paper? Why the constant “poker game” metaphors about holding cards close, reading your opponent, bluffing and calling bluffs?

Questioning the current way that pretty much anything happens in school systems is often met with the TTWWADI response or some variation of it. The TTWWADI response, or “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” has never been particularly appealing to me, but often it is used as a means of countering any practice that challenges the status quo.

Implied in the TTWWADI is often another statement, which is that the way we’ve been operating is satisfactory enough.

Over the last year, I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading and thinking about why change is so hard for people, not just at the personal level but also at the systems level. In my role as a new-teacher mentor, evaluation-framework trainer, and teacher-leader, it is often my duty to catalyze changes at various levels…from changes in how a novice teacher facilitates class transitions to changes in how a principal interacts with her staff, all the way up to changes in how we go about designing and communicating broader district policies.

And the greatest challenge is the hold that TTWWADI can have on people. It is a challenge because it is often justified: often the way we do things works well enough.

So why change? That’s a question I’ll be exploring in a short series of posts I’ve planned for the next few weeks. Please chime in to share your thinking, challenge mine, and advance the discourse about how to make meaningful change, particularly in behemoth systems with monumental institutional inertia to overcome.


Image Source: Flickr.

4 thoughts on “The Tyranny of the TTWWADI and Why Change Is So Hard

  1. Tom White

    TTWWADI is not always effective. But frequently, it’s the easy default. I remember from days on our bargaining team how every session started out nice and friendly, but soon enough things reverted to “more money for less work” vs. “less money for more work.”

    I hope you’re able to affect change in your context, Mark.

  2. Kristen Montieth

    I will be interested to read this since I am also a new president and bargaining this year.

  3. Pingback: Part II On Change: Us vs. Them | Stories From School

  4. Pingback: Part III on Change: Levels of Abstraction | Stories From School

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