Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Change Will Do You Good....But It Isn't Easy

I cannot believe how long it's been since I last posted. A clear sign that my life has been in a little bit of  turmoil these last few months.  But, hopefully, as the dust is settling, things will get back on a regular routine and I will not feel so completely overwhelmed.

Why am I overwhelmed you ask? Change. Change in so many aspects of my life - my family, my career, my dissertation. All of it happening at once, which is probably why there is this sense of overload. Which brings me to my inspiration today.

I have written about change before related to education - how teachers need support, time, etc. for change, such as Implementation Dip: It's Not Just Test Scores, It's Any Change and Instructional Change and Integration: It Takes A Village. What I wanted to focus on today is perhaps more of a justification for the time, support, understanding required of leaders as teachers (or anyone) are faced with so many challenges and changes to what, why, and how they are expected to teach. Being personally entrenched in numerous, difficult changes that all hit me at once, I feel I have a new perspective that I might not have considered before and which might provide some insight on how to continue to support teachers in change from a more emotional and personal perspective.

I am not going to get into specifics about all the changes that have occurred and that continue to occur. I will focus on one in particular that I am having the most struggle with, which is my job. I worked for the past five years for an amazing company - one I loved, with people I loved. It was a job I embraced every day with passion because I truly believed in what I did and what the company stood for.  That all changed when my company was acquired by a much larger company, and for the past five months there has been constant change. People are gone, a different company culture and structure now rules my life, the things I loved to do and the autonomy I once had have changed and continue to evolve and morph. I am struggling with letting go of my past and embracing a culture I don't feel as connected to.

Point number one: CHANGE IS EMOTIONAL - change is hard NOT because we don't want to change (often assumed of teachers who resist change), but because there is often a lot of emotion behind the change. I want to embrace my new job, I want to learn new roles and new skills, however...I LOVED what I did and I still want to do that - and it's emotionally wrenching to have that taken away or altered. In a sense, I am in mourning for what is gone and nostalgic about how perfect it was (which it wasn't). I admit to having a serious road I hope to overcome, but it will definitely take time, support, and understanding from my new bosses and those I work with, as well as commitment on my part to persevere.  So leaders - remember that about your teachers too - it may be an emotional reason vs. fear of new or different resources/strategies.

Another thing I have noticed with this change is that I am working with products/philosophy/culture that I am unfamiliar with and even, dare I say it, may disagree with or have a preconceived attitude about. This makes it difficult to change and do something new - I am fighting my beliefs, right or wrong, so not only am I learning new things/skills, I have to change my beliefs about those things/skills. A slow process where I need to gather more information, more understanding before I truly embrace or accept these changes.

Point number two: RESISTANCE/RELUCTANCE TO CHANGE IS MULTIDIMENSIONAL - It's easy to tell someone that if they learn a new skill or strategy, that things will be fine or be better. But learning that new skill/strategy or knowledge might not be the true road block - it could be that they don't understand the relevancy to what they do, or they have preconceived notions or beliefs that cause resistance, or they are missing some necessary background experience/knowledge.What matters here is again, time to learn, but more importantly, dissemination of background, relevance, and connection to what they do and how these new or different skills/resources/strategies will make things better. Without a reason, a purpose, a connection, learning the how-to won't ever change the internal beliefs and therefore never change behavior in a lasting, effective way.

My final thought, and I think it is something many folks face when confronted with change, is that some of the changes I may be asked to make or required to undertake may NOT be ones I agree with or that fit what I want to do. I may have to make a difficult choice - stay and assimilate or move on to something else. Change forces reevaluation of what you truly believe about what you do, your values, your interests, and your direction. And that's a good thing in the end. Change may in fact lead to change.

Point number three: SOME CHANGES MAY NOT BE FOR EVERYONE - it's hard to accept, but not everyone can, will, or needs to change, whether that be a skill/strategy/knowledge base.  What is important is to understand that, try to provide all the time, information, and support to push change along, but in the end, accept that some folks are not going to change and be prepared to deal with it. Whether this means encouraging them to find another place that fits their needs and interests, providing alternatives or simply accepting status quo, forcing those who are not ready, willing or able to change does NOT lead to success.

Change is inevitable. Every change is not for everyone, and it's not as simple as learning a new skill, strategy or structure. A change will do you good...but, it isn't easy.

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