Wednesday, May 4, 2022


Change ... this is a big topic.  The past few years have seen so much change - we've had a global pandemic, schools have closed, lessons have shifted online, some of us have had to deal with hybrid teaching with some students in school and others at home.  And we have survived .... but for some of us only just!  We are tired.  Change has sapped our energies.

Some change is welcome, some change is not.  Some change happens instantaneously, some is much slower.  For me there have been times when I've chosen change - a new job in a new country - and other times where I'd much rather have stayed but circumstances were pulling me in different directions.  One of the hardest changes for me was to leave my school in Amsterdam and to move my entire family to Thailand.  I think I cried almost every day for the last year I lived in Holland.  I knew it was coming - after years of free tuition I was counted as local and needed to pay for my children's education at the school, which I could not afford on a teaching salary - but gosh, it was hard.  And yet ..... it turned out for the best - I became an international teacher. Having made one "tough" move, I knew I could (and did!) make many others.  This led to opportunities that I'd never thought possible before.  Fast forward many years when circumstances again made me move - this time from India to the UK to take care of my mother after she was diagnosed with dementia.  Everything was uncertain:  no job, no home and so on .... but again tough circumstances led to me setting up as an independent consultant to schools, and again the impossible became possible.  My Indian friends told me it would all be OK in the end - this sense of karma - and it was, though it wasn't always easy.  As Elena Aguilar writes, "the key to resilience is learning how to get back to the surface when a ferocious wave knocks us over, how to ride those waves and perhaps even how to find joy when surfing the waves."

There's another kind of stress associated with change too - the stress we feel when we feel change is too slow.  I identify with that too.  I remember being at a school - a school that had employed me to bring about change - and then being blocked from changes I wanted to make.  Learning to navigate these obstacles, challenges and setbacks is also important.  Learning to deal with feelings and responses when things don't go as you want is also important.

I like the model of The Spheres of Influence that Elena shares in Chapter 11 of Onward.  She writes about what you can control, what you can influence and then everything else which is outside your control and influence - and therefore not worthwhile spending time and energy on.  I know that even when I could not to control or influence a situation, I could certainly decide how I felt in those times and how I responded to adversity.  It's all about deciding where I want to put my energy.  And even when times are really bad, we can hang onto the hope that we can emerge from these times stronger than before.  For example teachers around the world have told me of how their students have gone backwards in social skills, self-management skills and even communication skills during online learning, and yet they also tell me some students have thrived and they have noticed an increase in agency.  I think we need to be open to different outcomes - to have a growth mindset and be flexible and adaptable, to be able to manage our uncertainty and to live with the unknown.

Change causes a lot of fear.  I know now that when I got impatient at the pace of change that was unreasonable, because teachers had spent years becoming the teachers they were and here I was, a newby, asking them to become different teachers.  I think they felt threatened - perhaps they felt that I thought they were not doing a good job.  I think, looking back, that I did try to develop more of a culture of learning but it wasn't until I became a coach that I realised that if we want people to do something different we have to change their beliefs - because all actions emerge from our beliefs.  Looking back I think I could also have been more patient (something I'm not very good at).  I should have been more fully present for people.  Elena writes:

In order to cultivate perseverance and tenacity, you must look beyond short-term concerns and toward long-term goals.  You need to put off immediate gratification and manage your impatience.  You also must venture beyond your comfort zone and take on challenges of different sizes so that you can learn and can increase your confidence .... you'll have to view setbacks as opportunities for growth.

The truth of it is that I had a lot of growing to do.   

Photo Credit:  Elias Schäferle on Pixabay

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