I wrote about leaning into routines last week. At the risk of sounding contradictory, I’ve been thinking about change a lot this week. George Couros has inspired much of my thinking around change and has been the impetus for my writing past posts about it.
You see, change really is inevitable. Whether we decide to make a career change – moving to a new grade level, school district, occupation – or whether a career change is forced upon us, we have a choice in how we respond to that change.
I’ve witnessed many responses to change – my own and others’ responses. The number one determining factor in how “successful” a change is always boils down to the choice each person makes in their response.
Years ago, when I was told that I would be changing from teaching 5th grade to teaching 4th grade, I was initially upset and decided that I would not be an effective 4th grade teacher. As it turned out, I landed with a group of amazing colleagues who helped me transition into that change. Despite my initial choice (I was angry and would not be an effective 4th grade teacher), I was able to revise my choice because of the support of terrific colleagues.
I watch change on a daily basis in my job as an instructional coach. There are frequent daily schedule changes due to assemblies, fire drills, and guest speakers. There are frequent additions and deletions to our class rosters. There are frequent changes to instructional approaches as assessment data comes in. After all, the most predictable part of our job is its unpredictability.
When we make the choice to embrace those inevitable changes rather than to fight them by acting shocked and disgusted when they arise, we are making the choice to exercise flexibility. We are making the choice to model a positive response to change for those in our charge. We are making the choice to maintain composure during times of struggle.
Making the choice to respond positively to change is not always easy; in fact it is often quite difficult. Over the course of my career, when I learned about being moved to a new grade level (three times) and a new building (twice) my initial reactions were frustration and anger. This is understandable and to be expected; we all have a right to our feelings. BUT, choosing to move away from those initial feelings through self-awareness and permission to transition at our own pace, and moving toward feelings of excitement and anticipation is the ultimate determining factor in a positive change occurring.
I am witnessing some marvelous responses to change among our teaching staff.
- 5th grade teacher, Mary, has made the choice to use the EL Education curriculum to its full potential and her students are flourishing because of it! She is absolutely giddy with excitement when she talks about her students’ successes: there is literally a shine in her eyes when she is sharing! She has made the choice to uphold the integrity of this high quality curriculum by embracing the routines embedded within it that focus on character, mastery of knowledge and skills, and high-quality student work.
- 2nd grade teachers Jennifer and Kortney, both new to 2nd grade, recognize the difficulty that comes with learning all new content and are choosing to seize the opportunity to learn and grow for the benefit of their students.
- 5th grade teachers, Kim and Carmen, both new to teaching 5th grade, described in great detail how teaching, rehearsing, and reinforcing the routines unique to EL Education’s ALL Block have made the change to that grade level a positive one.
- 4th grade teacher, Shana, is embracing vulnerability as she has shared the struggles of moving from a 2nd grade classroom to a 4th grade classroom this year. She in encountering plenty of struggles, but she is choosing to reach out to her mentor (me!) and colleagues to work through those struggles.
- Our entire 1st grade team continues to revise common formative assessments and learning progressions as they reflect on data; they are in a continual state of revision recognizing that the work is never done. They embrace the change that comes with knowing better and doing better.
- 3rd grade teacher, Sarah, is looking for support in implementing the ALL Block. She has run into some roadblocks and has made the choice to invite a coach in as a means of problem-solving rather than making the choice that “ALL Block doesn’t work.”
- High school SPED teacher, Danyle, has had a change in her roster this year, making the needs of her students even wider than before. She made the choice to reach out to me to brainstorm ideas about how to make grade level standards accessible to all of her students.
- 1st grade teacher, Deb, made the choice to reach out for coaching support as her 1st graders worked on their “Magnificent Things,” knowing that collaboration for 1st graders is a struggle at this time of year.
- 4th grade SPED teacher, Rachella, has made the choice to embrace the major change in her teaching assignment this year, from TLS coordinator to 4th grade Special Education teacher, and is doing marvelous work to improve learning outcomes for her students. She is utilizing routines that provide consistency for her students.
- Elementary SPED teacher, Lisa, has made the choice to embrace the daily small wins that come with meeting the needs of her students who have diverse needs and behavioral challenges. She, too, is utilizing routines that provide consistency for her students.
- Elementary interventionist, Deb, has made the choice to reach out for support as she takes on the roles of both math and reading interventionist. In her 30th year of teaching, she embraces the fact that there is always more to learn and that we can all always improve.
- Kindergarten teacher, Leann, has made the choice to embrace the routines provided by EL Education’s Skills Block. Her kindergartners – 5-year olds – are able to move through independent work stations because Leann and her colleagues chose to battle through the challenges that come with establishing those routines.
- Instructional coaches Jane and Jenny, who chose to move from the classroom to instructional coaching, are consistently making the choice to reach out to colleagues for support in their new role. They are facing heaps of challenges that come with instructional coaching and are making the choice to grow as professionals through reaching out and through putting in tons of hours to learning about their new role.
We have a choice in how we respond to change. Perhaps routine and change aren’t so contradictory after all. Change is inevitable: let’s lean into those routines that make that inevitable change more smooth and successful. The routine of that long weekend run enabled me to capture the change that comes with a new season.