- Over the course of a long career in education, there can be numerous opportunities for change.
- There are five lessons learned from change: (1) It can be an adventure. (2) A new perspective is important. (3) People are people. (4) We are enough. (5) It makes us stronger.
I spend some time at the end of every school year looking back on my career. As I moved through this process at the end of the unique and challenging 2020-2021 year, I became aware of my strange attachment to change. I have just completed my 30th year in education. In that time, I have worked in two Canadian provinces, eight different schools, and 10 different grade levels. I have also held a Resource position and a Special Education post.
I changed classrooms a total of 19 times. I’ve had a classroom in a locker room, in the back of a school library, and shared an open classroom with a teaching partner and 45 students. I’ve also taught from a cart more than once.
When I graduated from Elementary Education, I prepared diligently for a one-grade, self-contained classroom. I thought I’d end up in my forever classroom after a year or two. I started out doing the jobs nobody wanted because jobs for educators were scarce. Somewhere along the way, I suspect I transitioned to subconsciously seeking change.
Lessons Learned from Change #1: It can be an adventure.
I landed my first job as a French Immersion teacher in Mississauga, Ontario, and the program was fairly new. The experienced teachers in my school had been chosen mostly for their willingness to forge a new trail. They were among the best in the business, but this didn’t mean they knew all the answers. We made our way together, created most of our own material, and learned to pivot when things didn’t go well. That kind of trailblazing ignited my desire to be part of innovation in education.
Lessons Learned from Change #2: A new perspective is important.
Every fresh setting has changed my outlook for the better. From a bustling city to a tiny northern town, every location has its benefits. A new grade level always increases my respect for my colleagues: there are joys and challenges in Kindergarten that don’t exist at any other level. Teaching a student with learning difficulties to read, when they have been waiting years for that feeling of success, is magical. An eighth-grader once told me, “I’ll always remember French class. You weren’t as bad as I thought.” That felt like a huge triumph, too! I had the opportunity to learn from grade-level experts and teachers who spent a lifetime at their school. I had more chances because I made more changes.
Lessons Learned from Change #3: People are people.
There is no such thing as a perfect student, an ideal parent, a teacher who never makes a mistake. Sooner or later, we all emerge as human. Parents who hated school themselves often require as much nurturing as their children, and their disinterest in education has no correlation with how much they love their kids. The littles are pure and new and accepting sometimes, but they can also be working through trauma without the tools experience brings. Middle schoolers are just larger kids with layers, and they need TLC, too. Every school, every grade level, every position has educators who show up, care, and try.[scroll down to keep reading]
Lessons Learned from Change #4: We are enough.
Being a Kindergarten teacher without all the cool toys and games is stressful…and I lived this before the temptation of Amazon! Being a seventh grade teacher whose very job involves introducing a second language to kids who would do anything not to be embarrassed is daunting. It’s tough being the inexperienced teacher, the one who is new to a grade level, the one with the less-equipped classroom, the one with little kids at home, the one who is not as young and cool as their colleagues.
Change comes to find us whether we seek it or not, and feeling inferior to others for whatever reason is unnecessary and useless. We don’t need stuff, or a different subject area, or more experience or time, or fewer wrinkles or more hair, to be enough. Kids need authentic educators, which means we’re already enough.
Lessons Learned from Change #5: It makes us stronger.
Change is always present in education. Adjustments are made for students, teachers, and administrators constantly, often with a quick turnaround and little consultation. Especially in this past year, children and adults have made our way through multiple pivots and switches, without much choice or warning. The field of education has been a very challenging place to be in a very strenuous world.
Yet, here we are. Pandemic teaching has been scary, like any adventure, but we’ve kept moving forward, learning along the way. We have new perspectives which will help us go into future years with the determination to innovate. A lot of schools and districts have developed fresh senses of community and learned to value all their people more than ever. After all, we are enough and we are stronger because of the lessons learned from switching it up.
About Sandra Weir
Sandra Weir lives in Québec, Canada. She taught every grade from Junior Kindergarten to Grade Eight. Sandra is currently a Grade Six English and Math teacher. She is a wife, mom to three wonderful adults, and a definite dog person.