Change can disorient. It can rattle. It can inspire.
Change is sometimes welcome, sometimes earth shaking, and sometimes so subtle that we don’t notice that one thing has gradually become another.
In education our change most often is limited to the space of weeks between school years, teachers changing schools as students change grades, new initiatives arriving and new curriculum being introduced beneath the summer sun. From time to time change surprises us in January, or even less often in the middle of a term.
My school has seen a lot of change over the past calendar year, and while it would be a fib to suggest that all of it was easy (major construction, changes in administration, counseling, and the teaching corps can be stressful), it’s true to say that as we find our footing on the eve of the second semester, we’re standing strong, because we’re standing together.
One of the best skills we can give to our students is the ability to face change, unexpected or otherwise, with strength, optimism, and the mindset to make the most of it. As a teacher I switched schools four times, and while each time it took me a year or two to get my balance, each move proved to be the right one, whether I thought it was going to be at the time or not.
It can be that way with movements in education too, as standards and expectations change, sometimes gradually, sometimes shockingly swiftly. Educators with strong centers adjust to these changes without resorting to cynicism or fear. They look critically at what is being suggested and engage with their colleagues to find what works, allowing themselves to entertain that change may bring with it opportunities that are good for teachers and for kids.
I saw some of that good work yesterday, when I got to sit in as English teachers from around our district discussed performance tasks, and dug deep into the ways changes can help students think critically about texts and meaningfully about life. Thoughtfully, they worked together to discuss what they could do in their classrooms to support student learning, and change and grow to adapt to a changing world.
The next few years are poised to offer us more opportunities to grow and change. New approaches in science, not unlike those in mathematics and English, and social science will challenge teachers to engage in meaningful discussions about how and what we teach.
As a philosophy major, the words of Heraclitus echo in my mind: “You can never step into the same stream twice.” He was talking about the constant flux of the world, and I see that reflected in my own professional life.
My first administrative job was great. I worked with two administrators who quickly became great friends. Lars and Justin and I faced tragedy together, struggled with big challenges, and became a cohesive team through two years of helping each other. Leaving them to come to Southern California, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever find the same connections with people I worked with.
And then I did.
I became a better administrator when I moved south. Buoyed by more great colleagues, and a slew of fantastic teachers, I stepped into a job that stretched me professionally and forced me to grow. I left the comfort of a known situation and dove head first into something different. And all was well.
I looked up, five years into my new position, and saw that I’d changed as an administrator. I’d matured, gotten perspective, and was better able to articulate why I did what I did, and why I was who I was.
With an opportunity to become a principal, my professional world changed again. And, welcomed by an amazing staff, strong assistant principal, and fantastic students, I’ve been inspired. Again.
In addition to welcoming change in a way I once wouldn’t have, being a witness to many changes in my couple of decades in education has helped me pause and appreciate the stream as I’m standing in it now. I know that it will look different before I know it. And that’s okay too.
We live in a world of flux, and it’s helpful to look for those who can help us grow, and to reach out to those we can help. Appreciating our current circumstances is as important as being willing to change them, and knowing that change brings opportunity matters as much as valuing the good of where we are.
Looking ahead I’d like to substitute the word “change” with another, term, pregnant with possibilities: where I see change I’d like to read opportunity.