Different

cougar headAt Diegueño we have a history teacher who has taught in the same room since the school opened in 1985. One year he moved his desk. He’ll be back in 2015-2016, an island of constancy in a sea of change.

Truth be told, that “sea of change” business is hyperbolic; we have many folks on campus who have been here for more than a decade, and almost every one of the dozen new teachers we hired last year are coming back. Still, Diegueño is similar campuses to across the state and nation in the sense that change in the adults on campus is a common occurrence.

Some years the changes are big.

Last year we added new teachers in every department, a new counselor, and a new principal. Midway through spring, our principal’s secretary, a fixture at Diegueño for more than ten years and our classified employee of the year, embarked on a late career adventure as she left to open a new middle school in our district. At the award ceremony to give her the EOY certificate she was flanked by her new principal and me. If she lacked the grace and humor she has, it might have been awkward.

More changes loom for the next school year. My attendance secretary will join her longtime office companion at the new middle school, my rock star assistant principal is excited to have earned a promotion to a high school in our district, and my 2014-2015 teacher of the year will take a full year leave to be with her new baby. Someone joked that I needed to stop giving out staff of the year awards.

They’ll all be missed, daily and deeply. And…

As we bid them goodbye, we prepare to welcome new teachers, office staff, a new counselor, and AP. A year from now these folks will be as dear as those who are moving on , but as change fills the air of May, it’s easy to feel, well… a little off balance.

“Lots of changes,” noticed my campus supervisor while we were out on lunch supervision. I could tell his thoughts were on the great people who won’t be here next year. There’s a legitimate tinge of concern whenever strong folks leave; a math teacher waved to me as I walked with my AP this morning saying “congratulations” to him and a smiling “my condolences” to me. But even as I recognized that his thoughts were about those going, I realized that mine were of those people who will be coming to Diegueño in a couple short months.

“Lots of changes,” he repeated, and I answered: “Yeah. It’s exciting. We’ll be okay.”

Looking back on that conversation, I realize that I didn’t quite capture the truth. We’ll be more than okay. We’ll be different, certainly, but in those differences come surprises, new friends, and perspectives we’ve never thought of before. Welcoming new staff to campus is part of what keeps our school vibrant. Articulating who we are and why we do the best things that we do helps us stay thoughtful about our practices and slow down long enough to prevent the “we’ve always done it this way” mindset. Listening to new points of view helps us question what we’re doing and improve.

A certain amount of change is built in to the structure of a middle school. Students are here for two years, which means every June we lose literally half of our student body, and every August we add 500 new students to our Diegueño family.

739580_proof_proportional_redraw (1)Schools do best when there is enough continuity to provide a sense of security, and enough change to prompt open mindedness and growth.

I would have done better in responding to my campus supervisor’s mild concern if I’d had the presence of mind to remember that line from Aristotle: “Change in all things is sweet.”  Sometimes it takes some time for us to recognize that sweetness, but as we allow ourselves, we do.

What remains constant isn’t the individual faces at a school, but the culture that is an accumulation of all those individuals, of what each has brought to the school community, and how the interactions between them has seasoned the salmagundi of the site.

Those who are leaving Diegueño this spring, students and adults, will be missed, even as they leave to make the places they’re going better because of who they are, formed in part by their own Diegueño experiences.

The people coming to Diegueño bring with them energy and excitement, questions and perspectives, passion and purpose. We’ll be different in ways, though some students will walk into that history classroom on campus and see the same teacher in the same room that their parents saw in 1985. The world that is Diegueño certainly isn’t spinning off its axis.

No, the changes that are coming will be as sweet as our attitude toward them. I look forward to the 2015-2016 edition of Diegueño and the surprises the year has in store for us. “Lots of changes,” you might say. I’d answer: “Yes! Let’s go!”

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