Coping with Change

Under the leadership of facilitator Starr Sackstein, this morning’s #sunchat was on the topic of change. In particular, we discussed how we as educators have changed over time, but I’m also equally interested in how we deal with change in the profession in general.

There seems to be a perception that the rate of change in the world is increasing. I’ve heard that from many frustrated colleagues, and business strategy experts whom I respect say the same thing. I’m not convinced that this is true, but in the secondary education corner of the American economy, change is happening very fast. In the independent school world, threats to our business model from technological disruptors are real, and we have to wonder about the sustainability of our financial model. I can’t insist that the industry bend itself to my will and change in the ways that I’d like to see, so the wisest path for me is to adapt to the changing environment and keep my skills relevant. That means embracing new technology, apps, media, and so forth. It also requires an openness to different models of structuring class itself, such as Genius Hour, project based learning, etc. As Starr mentions on her blog post on this topic, http://starrsackstein.com/category/times-they-are-a-changin-are-you/ , professional development has changed, too. I’ve already earned one Master’s Degree at night while working full-time; I’m not likely to seek another. Instead, professional development is going to come in the form of badges from online learning sources and social media interactions with a personal learning network (PLN) will supply much of what I learn about what’s going on in the field.

Starr’s post on this topic includes a bulleted list of ways in which she has changed since the beginning of her career. I’ll try to list some here:

  • I began my career with a traditional, college preparatory concept of grading. Now I’m a grades-resistant educator under the influence of Alfie Kohn. That goes for my rejection of rubrics, too.
  • Before I began working at my current school, I had a vague sense of values that I thought were important to inculcate in my students. Today, the Quaker values of Friends schools have chrystalized for me what is most important in this area.
  • I started my career teaching seventh graders, then spent some time teaching twelfth graders. Now I have grown comfortable teaching ninth and tenth grades (which I have done for the last eight years).
  • Early in my career I chose not to live on campus at the boarding school where I was working. Now I see residential life as a major component of my identity as a teacher. I may well be living in campus housing for the next thirty years.
  • For a long time I was resistant to the idea of taking on administrative duties. I liked being a vocal leader within the faculty (i.e. a loud-mouthed critic), and I sometimes viewed the administration as “them.” Now I enjoy my little assistant dean gig, and I wouldn’t cringe at the idea of doing more work of that nature.
  • I’ve undergone a drastic change shift in my knowledge and embrace of technology just in the last year. This blog, my rabid use of Twitter, and a whole host of things I’m doing with my students are a testament to that.
  • I got into teaching through coaching. I thought I’d be coaching one or more seasons of interscholastic sports . . . forever. Today I find myself without coaching duties at all. I miss coaching fencing, but my world has not stopped spinning just because I’m not a coach anymore.
  • I care a lot about authenticity now. I wouldn’t have known what that term means in an educational context if you had asked me ten years ago.
  • I used to be very snooty and old-fashioned in my ideas about what a “good college” was. Changes in the higher ed landscape and changes in the US economy have shifted my ideas on this. I’m very happy these days when I see my students accepted by colleges at which I used to sneer, and if they can make the financial piece of the puzzle work without taking on too much debt, I’m even happier.

I’m sure there are many more examples I could think of, but it’s a busy weekend in the deans’ office, so that’s all for now.

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