If you are in education, heck, in life, you hear this word tossed around a lot. The curmudgeonous old man in me flares as I think I don’t need change that much and while we are at it, get off my lawn too!
I didn’t used to be this way and yes, it’s part of getting older I’m sure. After college, my wife and I taught in Minnesota, Alaska, and Missouri before moving back closer to home in Iowa. In Alaska, we were, as my father put it “400 miles from the nearest McDonalds” (actually, a two hour plane ride and a car rental later, we were there). In Missouri, we lived in a home where on the abstract, part of the original property was traded for slaves! The acreage we live on right now is what we’ve wanted, some place where we can stretch in the morning without looking out the window at the neighbor doing the same thing! We’ve visited and lived in some awesome places, done tremendous things, so why does change bother me?
Well, I’ll be honest, I love the routines of life, the seasons changing, the ebb and flow of the school year, my garden growing, the fact that from November to March, basketball is front and center, all of those things are comforting to me. Change throws all of this out of kilter, creating a discord that I don’t especially enjoy, which is true of many people I’m sure. For me, the biggest reason I don’t like change is because I don’t always see change as a good thing. If we are changing simply for the sake of change, what is the good in this? Too many times, I think in education, we have good intentions and our hearts are in the right places, but we get sucked into the “oh it’s change, so it must be good” thought process.
We have a veteran staff, both both choice and by necessity due to budget issues to the point where my job, after 14 years, was seriously in jeopardy. As I went through the thought process of what that change might look like, I could see where our life style would change dramatically, but yet, I could see how some of that change could easily have turned out good for us. Now, I’m not saying I’m ready to give up being a teacher nor does the idea of losing my job sound anything but awful, but I could envision where that life event could create some good in our family down the road. I’m moving to sixth grade this year, looping with my students from last year in the process. I was told this very quickly while at our church’s annual conference, and for a moment was overwhelmed by the fact that most of the planned I’d all ready done that summer and all the mental preparations I’d done for a class of 33 was out the window. I absolutely love the idea of teaching my students again this year, but for that brief moment in time, change was NOT a good thing in my life!
As I watch our district change, whole grade sharing for the first time, that idea of change weighs heavily on me. There are things going on that will cause our family some stress that we’ve not had to deal with before. We’ll have daughters in two different buildings for the first time ever. My oldest daughter is going to a high school where our family has very few relationships with the teachers there. We are talking about *gasp* school permits! And in the elementary, our teachers are going to single section classroom for the first time ever. Our high school is not a middle school, so we’ll have 250+ 7th and 8th graders running around, a majority of which we as teachers have no relationships with. It’s a lot to take in for certain. However, we’ve all, from our superintendent down have worked hard to make this change a good thing for our schools and our communities as a whole. The reality in rural Iowa, there aren’t many jobs, and our schools are losing kids. This kind of change will only continue, and I’m glad that we are exploring is opportunity now. True, no districts who’ve shared like this have ever split back up, but yet, it’s only a three year contract at this point, so things could be different too.
As my thoughts start to slow down here, I’m brought back to the Greek professor Heraclitus who said, “The only constant in life is change,” which is so true. My parents are getting older, my body doesn’t heal as fast, my dogs are getting gray in the face, and it’s time to figure out what heifers we are going to sell. So much of our lives is change, much of which we don’t even realize is happening. That’s where I go when I start to feel overwhelmed by things, that idea that change truly is all around us and while the big stuff can seem daunting, we are managing it on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. I’ll also look at my own passions as a way to manage that change too. My family, basketball, keeping lines of communication open, running, all of these things help to keep me sane when the tidal wave of “change this” is approaching. And I will admit, much of what we change is usually done for the good of those around us. Sure, we as teachers get it thrust upon us at really inconvenient times, but we make do, we over come, and we do what is best for our students. No it’s not pretty, but rarely is change clean and tidy. Usually it’s messy and sloppy, sometimes just downright awful.
But, if we can manage it, find those positive points because they are usually there, and continue to focus on main thing, we can get through change and reap the rewards of the good work we’ve accomplished.
Or at least until basketball season, no changes during basketball season please! 😉