Are you the kind of person who jumps into a pool without so much as touching the water with your toe first?
Or are you the type who wades in slowly, step by step, getting used to the cold as you go?
Although most people can be a hybrid of these two philosophies in life depending on the circumstance, almost no one enjoys being tossed into the water without any warning at all.
In education, unfortunately, initiatives are often dictated with very little warning or preparation, metaphorically pushing teachers and administrators unexpectedly into the water.
Whether a person decides to sink or swim once the unexpected transpires, is dependent upon several factors.
Sink? You're already wet and in the water, so option 1 is to do nothing and allow the weight of your clothes and comfort to sink you to the bottom. Too often educators become fixed in their ways and are unwilling to try new things, even when they are forced to try them. Admittedly, this isn't the best way to take a risk, but it's happening, so if you don't adapt, you will likely drown.
This approach is not going to result in the best learning environment for kids and will likely breed resentments on multiple levels. Teachers in this situation become hardened and angry and often forget why they decided to teach in the first place.
So you're in the water and you're uncomfortable. Jeans don't feel good when they are stuck to your leg and keeping your head afloat while the water is rough is also challenging, but your alternative is to drown and that isn't much of a choice.
Here's what you can do to get to safety and maybe if you're lucky even start to appreciate the push:
Find out as much as you can about the initiative, either by doing research or by asking lots of questions. Find out who the touch person is in your school for leading the change and pick his or her brain. Although the change will be scary, being armed with information will at least make things more certain.
Ask for help once you know what you're headed into. For example, my school is currently moving to a standards-based grading platform. Not everyone on staff was aware that change was happening or the swiftness of its occurrence. Because I helped to write the policy and understand the philosophy behind why we are changing, I offered to help anyone who needs it. Whether it is explaining what standards-based grading and how to implement it with students, how to talk to parents about it, or setting up our online grade book to reflect the change, I'm for anyone who asks.
Rather than assume the change is bad (because it's happening), try to see the positive and be positive with the students and parents about it. They are going to need you to be their rock, so don't forget to wear a smile.
Anything new takes time, give yourself time to acclimate. You aren't going to get it right away, but as long as you keep trying, it will get easier with practice and continued implementation.
Make the new initiative yours. Do your best to put your stamp on the expectations and begin to really mold it to fit what you need for your students.
Always put the students' needs first and work hard to not let your discomfort with change cloud your attitude toward the kids and what you need to do to help them be successful.
Try not to blame anyone for what has happened. Many times changes come from different places and getting angry at one person isn't going to change your situation. If you can't adapt to the new change, maybe it's time to try another situation.
Changes happen all the time and it's hard. Even when we want to make the adjustments, moving away from what we know is always going to take some time. Although you may not have been a part of the planning process, that doesn't mean you can't take control of your situation.
What's your best advice for moving with the stream when change happens? Please share
This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in September 2015