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Change – An Educator's Enemy or Best Friend?

Why is it that we as educators love comfort, predictability and routine? Why is it that in many other professions change is encouraged and fostered? I am crucial aware change can be both positive and negative and it is our outlook towards this that makes the difference in the outcome.

Professionally change is upon me with a major shift with the grade that I am teaching. As such I need to get used to a new cohort of students, a new teaching partner, a new teaching team, new sets of parents and a new room. On top of this I have new curriculum material from our new syllabus’ and in the back of my mind I know I will have another major change at the end of the year moving into our new learning center.

Personally change has not eluded me either as I look over the past 20 years I have experienced many major changes starting when I got married. Without going into too many details there have been countless adaptations that I needed to get used to when going from the single life to one, which is happily married.

Just over a year after I was married I watched my house burn to the ground in a Sydney wildfire on Christmas day. In the year we rebuild I graduating from study and was appointed to a position then lost it due to a back injury. Being off work for a period of time and then told I could not go back to the profession I loved was one of those changes that could have lead to depression.

Starting a new course of study and moving into outdoor education and professional coaching soon caused me to begin to look at how change could be viewed in a positive light. Around this time I became a dad and like with marriage this is creates a major alteration to life. With this new appreciation of change we began to build a team of volunteers that would work with children at risk as early intervention support. After focusing on building my strength, I was again able to return to the sport I loved and began to teach high level of athletes. Continuing my evolution I furthered my study and was appointed to a school. In 2010, I moved to my current position adding the portfolio of ICT Learning Coach two years later. I have come to know change happens even when we are not looking for it.

There is a story written by Spencer Johnson called “Who moved my cheese?” In this he tells a story about change that takes place in a maze where four little characters look for “cheese”. Cheese is a metaphor for what we desire, our goals, hopes and dreams. In one of my previous post One Degree Makes a Significant Difference I stated, “The bottom line is we get to decide what success is for each of us” this is our cheese. If we lose it, don’t achieve it or it is taken from us it can be distressing, so we need to take care to anticipate change and adapt to it quickly so that we can enjoy the new cheese. Throughout all the changes life has, I could become upset, dig my heals in and refused to accept them but this doesn’t change the fact that the change has happened. I now understood that change only surprises us when we are not expecting it or not looking for it.

In nature we know change happens, without it things become dry and stagnate. Denis Waitley tells a story in his book Psychology of Winning (1986) of Earl Nightingale visiting Australia’s magnificent Great Barrier Reef. He noticed that the coral polyps on the inside of the reed where the sea was tranquil and quiet in the lagoon, appeared pale and lifeless… while the coral on the outside of the reef, subject to the surge of the tide and the power of the waves, were bright and vibrant with splendid colours and flowing growth. Earl Nightingale asked his guide why this was so?

His guide responded ‘It is very simple, the coral on the lagoon side dies rapidly with no challenge for growth and survival. While the coral facing the surge and power of the open sea, thrives and multiplies because it is challenged and tested everyday.’

This story resonates with me because in my personal and professional life whenever I tried to spend too much time in the tranquility and comfort I found myself losing my desire to become better than what I am, my cheese began to move. Though the still waters are appreciated when they come, as they are a source of refreshment and reflection the challenge of change invigorates growth.

The facts are the choices I have made in the past have brought me to the place I am at now. As I build on the present and develop a magnificent future I choose to accept change is going to happen and I can choose to allow it to stagnate or invigorate me. I have grasped the notion that life and my profession as a educator is an adventure that needs to be savored and like any adventure storms come and battles rage. How I grow through these define the type of person and educator I chose to become.

So decide for yourself… Is change your enemy or your best friend?

Johnson, S. (2006) Who Moved My Cheese? Ebury Publishing, London
Waitley, D. (1986) The Psychology of Winning. Penguin Publishing Group, Berkeley 

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