Tuesday, February 7, 2012


In the twenty years I've been in education, nothing's been more consistent than change. I suspect that's been true all along; it was for my retired colleagues and it will be for those just entering the field. So, why then, are so many of us so frightened by change, when it surrounds us daily? Oh. Maybe that's why. It surrounds us daily.

I like to think that there are few jobs in which change happens as frequently and as systematically as in education. I'll admit it; I like that recognizing change, adjusting to change, and embracing change is not only good for us, but expected of us. I know I sometimes wear my own affinity for change like a badge: Look at me!! See the change swirling about? Watch me adapt!! And, sometimes, I know the change itself is like a midway sideshow at a sleazy circus, too: Step right up!! See the change swallow this teacher and his bookbag whole!! And let me issue the most important caveat right here: in educational philosophy, change simply for change's sake is not good. Not. Good. At. All. 

But when kids change, or when educational change follows cultural change, it's okay. It really is okay. It is normal, and right, and while you may not think it good, it is normal, and right. Texting is not the end of face-to-face communication (it's just called "having a face-to-face" now). Bumping and grinding is just the way teenagers dance (our "bumping" was once met with raised eyebrows, too). Ensuring that every kid has the chance to succeed is not an outlandish expectation (it's definitely right and good). These changes do not portend the end of civility, or the destruction of community, or the loss of everything that's come before. They are just changes. And like us, and our parents, and their parents before them, our kids will become functioning citizens of this earth: caring and compassionate, smart and skilled, determined and diligent. They will invent, sell, defend, educate, heal, build, support, design, entertain, and serve. Just like us. 

Ten years ago, after a particularly engaging classroom discussion, I wrote my philosophy about change on my blackboard (it really was a blackboard). In big, capital letters, I wrote, "LIFE IS CHANGE." Deep, right? I caught a lot of flak from my students that year, a collectively bright, yet somewhat jaded (post 9/11) group of juniors in my American Literature class. For them, the shine was already off the apple a bit, and I think they were convinced that they could remain just as they were and the world would, or perhaps should, remain just as it was. Ah, youth. Today, I'm confident that they've evolved as the world around them has, and I can only hope that they might embrace my philosophy with a little more faith and a little less playful derision than they displayed in 2002. 

Like the ubiquitous sh*t that happens, change happens, too. When it feels uncomfortable, it's time to ask ourselves why, time to broaden our understanding of ourselves and our world, time to get our heads around whatever is evolving - yes, for our students, but mostly, for ourselves. We may think it's the end of the world as we know it, but we can still feel fine. 

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