Yet, change (like anything else), is not all bad and not all good. It’s a mixed bag.
What is true is that change is constant. It’s also getting exponentially quicker. This is not only in education, but in many fields of work. It’s taken a while for change to pick up the speed with which we now see it in the classroom, but it has always been there.
So, how do we handle this as teachers and school leaders? How can we keep the frustration and desperation from boiling over and hurting all potential progress? More importantly how can we make sure the frustration and desperation does not trickle down to our students and impact their learning experience in a negative way?
We can start with these guiding beliefs:
1. Change is constant, let’s focus on how we manage it
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude – Maya Angelou**
We may not be able to influence what types of changes are made in schools. Some we are going to love and support. Some we are going to disagree with and oppose. Regardless, the one thing we do have control over is how we manage change as an organization, team, and individual.
Start with yourself. How are you talking about change? How are you managing the process? What can you do to help colleagues through the change?
2. Don’t wait for training, be a learner, go out and seek it
If we accept that change is constant, we also have to realize learning is constant. Professional development and training can only take you so far as an individual. If you want to be successful through times of change then go out and seek new learning opportunities and training.
The internet has changed how we learn forever. Anything you want to learn (or need to learn) is most likely available online for free… This is not to say that organizations should not provide training. Of course they should. But how can we seek out learning opportunities (and share those opportunities with colleagues) that can help all of us in times of change?
3. Focus on the important things (many of these do not change)
Are students engaged? Are we challenging students and supporting students through various learning activities? Is the classroom a student-centered experience? Are we focusing on the whole child?
I get that curriculum changes. Technology changes. New initiatives are always around the corner. But the best practices of “how we learn” are focused on student-centered experiences with the right amount of challenge and support for all of our learners.
4. What can we focus on in the midst of all the change: our students.
If you are feeling frustrated in your current situation…or desperate for some help in managing all of this change, take a step back.
Take a moment to breathe and look at the big picture.
Last year as a staff developer many of our staff members were frustrated that they had to learn about a new tool with the entire staff during an in service when they already were using it…why have the same training when everyone was on different levels. Our game-based professional development missions came out of this frustration.
And just this year, a fantastic teacher I currently work with was frustrated with how “Industrial Arts” still looked for the most part like it did when he was in high school. After a lot of hard work, this frustration turned into a new 9th grade course (Creative Design & Engineering) and a reworking of the entire scope and sequence to create a true Maker Department.
If we choose to let frustration and desperation get the better of us…then we choose to miss the silver lining: Innovative ideas come out of frustration.
We tend to think of creativity and innovation as something that happens outside the box. But I would disagree. The most creative and innovative work comes from circumstances that force a new type of thinking for solutions inside the box.
It reminds me of the scene in Apollo 13 when the carbon dioxide is building and they have to make a filter using only the materials inside the shuttle. There is pressure. There is frustration. And there is a group of desperate people working to create an innovative solution…
Put all the circumstances out on the table. Embrace the feelings of desperation and frustration. And then create something inside the box that is going to benefit everyone.
Because the only other option is to give in and give up. And that sure wouldn’t be any fun!