Yes. Change in inevitable. We all change, whether we like it or not. Whether we realize it or not. Whether we do it intentionally or not. But, recently, I have been thinking a lot about intentional change. Making the choice to change something.
As a teacher, I have changed a lot. Each year, I adapt my teaching to the kids sitting in front of me. And each moment, I adapt my teaching to the one child who is sitting in front of me and what he or she needs in that moment. Those changes are important, but those changes happen almost without me noticing or trying.
This summer, there have been other kinds of change. The kind of change that comes from a need way down deep inside of me. At the end of the last school year, I decided that I needed to change. Throughout my life, when I decide I need to change it is often an immediate decision and then I instantly feel compelled to make huge sweeping changes all at once. This moment in my life has been no different. As I have said in earlier posts, I suddenly realized that I was starting to settle and I knew that my students and I deserved more. So I made the decision to change. To change a lot.
It’s been a scary summer. Learning about what is possible can be scary because it is often so far from where we currently are. The road between the two points is not a clear one, it is not a straight path, and we know, even before we begin, that it will not be an easy walk. As I start to get ready for the upcoming school year, I am terrified at the thought that I won’t be able to change in all the ways that I hope to. My days (and the middle of my nights) are filled with thoughts of what I will do differently this coming year.
And I have started to wonder why. Why have I decided to change? What makes us, all of a sudden or over time, decide that it’s time to change and change big? What makes us willing to take the risk? For me, there are three factors that I have been able to identify that have led me to be able to change:
1) Reflection — I am a naturally pretty reflective person. I am constantly replaying my actions and words and thinking about what I could have done or said differently. It leads to a lot of sleepless nights, but it also makes me pretty honest. I am honest about my strengths and I am really honest about my weaknesses. I might not want to change the things that aren’t working, but I am certainly aware that they are there. And most often I am pretty open about admitting them to others. I also work really hard to stay reflective. Over the years, I have learned to listen to that tiny voice that we all have that tells us when things aren’t working as well as they could be. For a long time, I ignored that voice and it brought me to some pretty ugly places. Now, I am a better listener and I am willing to honor that voice that tells me things could be better by working to make changes that will lead to improvements. I truly believe, that most of us know when what we are doing isn’t right. It’s whether or not we choose to listen to ourselves and trust ourselves and make the changes that are necessary that makes the difference between those who are willing to work towards positive change and those who are willing to stick with the status quo. I believe that educators need more time for reflection. Teachers need to be encouraged to reflect. Teachers need to be asked questions and they need to ask questions of themselves and of each other. Instead of simply being given new programs to use, we need to be given time to look at what our students need and think of ways that we can give those things to them. We need to be reminded of what it means to be reflective and to act on our reflections. That is what is going to start to bring about the kind of change that we need.
2) Confidence — For a long time, I did not believe that I was worthy enough. I didn’t think I was a good enough teacher or daughter or friend or sister or a million other things. I didn’t understand that I was worthy just because I was here (I think Oprah might have been the one who told me!). Over the years, as I have worked hard to better myself, I have gained the confidence that I need in order to take risks that I don’t know will be successful. I know that I need to change things in my classroom. I have specific goals to work on. But I have no idea whether or not I will actually be successful in achieving these goals. And that’s where I need my confidence. I have to believe that I am good enough whether or not I meet all of my goals. I have to believe that just because I am trying to do better, that is enough. I have to believe that just because I am willing to struggle towards growth, that is enough. If I didn’t believe that I was good enough, I wouldn’t be able to try. When I look at my willingness to change in this way, it helps me to better understand those who might not be ready yet to make the changes they know they need to make. It helps me to understand that I will NOT encourage anyone to change by simply pointing out and criticizing the things that I think they are doing wrong. I have been a bit uncomfortable these past fews days as I have read more and more comments on Twitter criticizing (pretty harshly) those who aren’t doing things in the way we think that they should be doing them. I don’t believe that this harsh criticism is what is going to lead teachers to the kind of change that we are all hoping they will make. If we can make teachers feel good about themselves, help them to believe that they are powerful, and help them to believe that they have what it takes to make bold and daring changes, then we have a chance of inspiring change amongst those teachers who have been hesitant.
3) Inspiration — In order for me to be willing to change, I need to have a vision of what is possible. Often, that comes from hearing what others are doing. I truly believe that learning from the strengths of those around me is what finally pushed me towards making big changes in my classroom. For me, this came from Twitter and it came from reading education blogs. I needed to read stories of what was being done, in order to help me question what I was doing. It’s not that I want to do the exact same things that I see others doing. Instead, hearing about what others are doing provided me with the inspiration to think about what I could be doing. Too often, we get caught inside the walls of our own classrooms and we keep doing what we have always done because it is what we know. When I started to crawl outside the walls of my classroom, I saw the many possibilities that existed and it was what I needed in order to start me on this path towards change. Again, this helps me to better understand those who are reluctant to change. I think often teachers are doing what they believe they are supposed to be doing. it’s what they know. It’s what they have been told to do. And unfortunately, much of the professional development that we receive continues to encourage us to just follow another program or read another script. Our professional development doesn’t often inspire us with stories of what is possible. For me, that was what was missing and I have to believe that it is what is missing for others as well. It is one of the reasons that I believe so strongly in teachers getting into each others classrooms so that they can start to envision other possibilities. It is also why I have become such a fan of Twitter (despite my moments of discomfort with the way non-connected teachers are sometimes criticized). I love that being on Twitter exposes me to so many new ideas. So many possibilities. So many avenues for inspiration.
So as I move forward with my changes, I will continue to hold on to these three things. Reflection, confidence and inspiration. For me, they are the tools that I will need to forge ahead into this somewhat uncertain year. I know that I will need other things as well, but I think if I can hold on to this, on to these three things, I might just make it out alive!