This weekend marks the Easter holiday and the beginning of a week break from school. Instead of springtime temperatures though, we have been plunged back into a never-ending deepfreeze. Winter blues are in abundance, even for me. I’m tired. Making it through the last few days of school, while keeping up a positive persona, took a lot of energy. The seasonal daytime high for our area is +5 Celsius, yet as I write, the temperature is a balmy -20 with a -28 windchill. Niiiiice. And although we collectively understand that warmer times will inevitably arrive, there is some frustration in enduring the here-and-now.
I suppose that is a metaphor for the Easter season as well. In the truly Christian sense, the dark events of Good Friday lead to the good news and resurrection of Easter Sunday, and the message that no matter how desperate and desolate the present may be, there is hope and forgiveness for all people. In a secular sense, the spring equinox is the short, equal balance of light and dark, a tipping point where we move toward longer days and shorter nights. Spring brings new life from the earth, water out of ice, and change is everywhere in abundance. (Eventually!)
I was thinking about change earlier in the week, as I had the opportunity to talk to some education students at the university. It was an impromptu appearance, nothing major, as I just fielded questions about the job, like ‘what do you love most about teaching?’ Pffft. That’s easy. The kids. 100%. (And if that’s not the #1 answer for people, you may want to think about why we are here.) Another question was ‘what do you find most interesting about teaching?’ Now this is where the first thought that popped into my mind was: change. Every day is different. Every. Single. Day. Heck, no two consecutive hours, even if you attempt to teach the same lesson in the same course at the same grade level, will ever be replicated. The change factor? Students.
I love change. Change provides us with the opportunity to begin again. Leave behind the past and start fresh. That works for students just as much as it does for adults. Personally, I couldn’t imagine working at a job where everything is predictable, an assembly-line monotony that would crush my spirit in mere minutes. Of course, change on a personal level is much more difficult, particularly when I don’t agree that the change is necessary. (Sorry, but only two cups of coffee a day is NOT a reasonable amount!) So there are times when I need to acknowledge that I am eagerly accepting of change because I am the harbinger of it, and times I need to remember the feeling of having change imposed on me.
There is a lot of educational writing on understanding the dynamics of change. I love how Michael Fullan captures this paradox. “I’ve said that the marks of a change agent are relentless commitment to a cause and flexibility in how to serve that cause. To combine the two, you need to become simultaneously assertive and sensitive, demanding and understanding, confident while doubting, local and big picture, essential at the beginning and dispensable at the end.” To state the obvious, implementing change is hard. After the Easter break, our school is making a change to our weekly learning hour, and adding in time for school-wide literacy. Our admin brought the idea to the staff for feedback, communicated the research and reasoning with parents, and facilitated classroom discussions to hear student perspectives. Even with this transparency, change makes people uncomfortable; like the quote at the top says, "Change is never easy, but always possible." (Barack Obama)
Change is obviously a core tenet of education and the multi-faceted aspects of it are truly ever-changing. New classes. New curricula. New students. New seating plans. Changes in policy. Changes in assessment. Changes in staffing. Transformational change. With so many pieces in flux, where do you even start? I like a quote by Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” And for us in education, that begins with asking: What is best for our students? What is best for our school? As we come back next week, we will start a new month, with a new schedule, and with a clear goal: "that these changes will significantly impact the learning of all DCS students in a positive and meaningful way." Just like spring, I can't wait!
Happy Easter! Hyvää Pääsiäistä!
Kiitos - Hiy Hiy - Thanks for reading!
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