I’ve written about change in multiple posts, with a March 7 post dedicated entirely to it. My family is the consistent benefactor of a phrase that I borrowed from George Couros (I think!… and I’m paraphrasing here): “Change is inevitable. You can either resist it, accept it, or embrace it. Whatever you choose, change is inevitable.” I preach this mindset, and am often challenged to practice what I preach. Spoiler alert: I don’t always do so well with it.
As FMCSD welcomed students back to school today to kick off the 2021-2022 school year, I (along with our coaching staff) was asked to assist in two special education classrooms for the remainder of the week. We were asked yesterday, so it wasn’t a complete surprise this morning. Last night, I recognized that I was having some uneasy feelings about the coming week. In addition to setting aside the plans I had, rescheduling meetings, and shifting the workload, I was becoming nervous about working with students that have needs that I don’t feel equipped to meet. My self-talk went round and round: “You are an educator, Megan – you know how to do this… But I don’t have the skills to meet these kids where they are at… There will be lots of support with other teachers, associates, and coaches… How will I handle behavior issues from students who have significant struggles?… You are an educator, Megan – you know how to do this… You need to practice what you preach to others: it’s OK and important to be uncomfortable; this is when we grow.” Round and round it went.
Today came, and I’m alive and well. Well enough to write about it tonight! The struggle was real today, but the positive talk from last night held true. The staff in this building is amazing! Jennifer – my respect for you just continues to grow and grow. And I was paired with a student who was an absolute delight! Yep, he came with some needs that I was not used to and felt inadequate when trying to meet them, but his hugs and positive interactions were more assurance for me than that kid will ever know. And we get to go back tomorrow, and it’s going to be OK. My self-talk tonight is what you are reading now. I’m experiencing far less anxiety, and am looking forward to the challenges that tomorrow will bring.
Our entire FMCSD staff is facing lots of change this school year. We have lots of new staff members, preschool through 12th grade – more new staff than I ever remember at the beginning of a school year. At the same time, we have departments that are short-staffed, so we have teachers taking on heavier loads and teaching classes they hadn’t planned to teach… and not being able to teach some classes that they had been planning on. We have teachers who have changed buildings, grade levels, and positions. We have veteran teachers supporting new teachers. We’ve had a “toss-up” of administrators; each building is beginning the year with a different administrator than they ended the year with. We are making plans to move from a four-campus district to a two-campus district in two short years. Change is rampant in FMCSD! I’m rather confident that change is rampant everywhere. How do I know this?
When I think of change in the school setting, I often revisit a memory that I do not recall with fondness. One October or November, I was teaching fifth grade and was met before school one morning with the news that I would have a new student starting that very day. Lots of thoughts went through my mind (“Are you kidding me???” was a prevalent thought, for sure!); I went to my principal and rationalized that if we could wait at least one day, I could have a desk and all of the materials ready to go so that it would be a more welcoming experience for the student. My principal (a woman whom I hold in the highest regard) looked at me and said, “Megan, this student is starting today. He will be better off in our school and in your classroom than anywhere else.” Let’s just say I walked out of the office with my tail between my legs. I felt so ridiculous for making the request. And that student WAS better off at school than anywhere else.
The day-to-day change described above, and the minute-to-minute change that comes our way EVERY day in our classrooms, speaks to the unpredictability of our job. This type of change reminds me of yet another quote, which I revisit often and was most certainly revisiting yesterday and today:
I wish I held the magic formula for dealing with change and unpredictability. I don’t, but I recognize that acceptance of their inevitability is one step along the way of embracing both. I also know that we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we initially resist change. As I said in that March 7 post: “…I also remind myself that a healthy dose of skepticism and pushback around change is necessary, and as George Couros reminds us, should even be encouraged. I’m not writing to say that we shouldn’t question change. I am writing to say that when we question it, we should come at that line of questioning with a true desire to understand, being fully aware of our own reservations and tendencies. If the change coming our way is not something we can come to terms with, think of change the way Maya Angelou reminds us:”
A side note or two: 1) I’m a week and two days late in posting, as I am still sticking to posting every Sunday by 1:00 p.m. I could have set aside writing for another week, but I know how important committing to this time is. It’s something I do for myself and my own personal growth. Quite honestly, it just makes me feel so darn good to finish a post – the reflection serves as some kind of healing or therapy. 2) I had actually started a different post last week and attempted to finish it on Sunday. I let some other things get in the way of finishing it, and am now recognizing that I just wasn’t “feeling it.” Tonight’s writing came fast and furious – I clearly needed it, and was clearly “feeling it.” That other post will be revisited and published at some point, I’m sure, and I’m also sure that I’m walking away with a big lesson: Continue to write from the heart. Don’t force it.