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Principles of change

Recently, I read a powerful blog post by George Couros, which if you don’t follow him on Twitter, you really need to get on that. George is a remarkable educator, learner, and leader in the education realm. In a recent post, he goes on to say:

“For some, change is happening too slow, but for others it is happening too fast.  It is the Goldilock’s conundrum that we are facing; how do we make it happen so the pace of change is just right? Short answer? We can’t.”

The theme that prevailed from Couros’s post was the idea of “forward movement.” That while we all may move at diverse paces, the fact that we are each moving forward is admirable, and (dare I say it) GREAT. Particularly in a realm in which systemic issues are deeply rooted in our history, movement forward IS progress – no matter the physical rate at which it occurs.

For such a reason, I am blessed to have had the experience of teaching in Rowan-Salisbury Schools for 3 years, learning alongside incredible educators. Educators who did, in fact, ensure progress (no matter the rate) in a memorable manner.

I’ve had lapses recently in which I get caught in a heavy moment of reflection pertaining to the past three years (and think to myself, “what am I doing?”). Last week, it was the EdCamp Kenan Express event which nearly had me in tears, and today it was a culmination of moments which led to such. I’ve learned many lessons from these previous three years pertaining to leadership, learning, and what it truly means to be an effective teacher (which is much more than just test scores).

What has hit me the hardest isn’t the curriculum to be learned, or the unlearning/relearning of procedures I will have to do. No, when I truly reflect, what has hit me the hardest is the following notion:

I encourage my students to be risk-takers, and I here I am fearful of the risk-taking I put myself in.

Talk about feeling like a hypocrite.

It is in those moments of reflecting that I fully comprehend that I will no longer be next door to near-and-dear colleagues, particularly those that spontaneously silly-string you. Or those which will take spring break to go to an EdCamp with you (or be mad enough to lead one for your district). The educators and leaders who provided opportunities for professional growth, and trusted me in the capacity as a teacher leader are now hours away. What I am leaving behind is a family, and that is difficult.

Yet, I am also leaving behind safety in what I’ve always known. And this IS difficult for fear of risk is a natural component of such.

While I resisted the thought of change for several months despite knowing my husband and I were leaving, I knew the change would be beneficial to me as an educator, and ultimately students whom I’d instruct.

I believe in many ways that safety can create barriers for becoming the best that which we can be. When pushing boundaries, it is natural to seek safety; regardless if it pertains to pedagogy, professional development, etc. It is safe to return to habits of the norm, of the system in place. Pushing boundaries is difficult, for questioning results as innovation is not a safe place. Challenging oneself to become better is not safe, it is a risk.

However, in moving forward, I need to be a role model for my own students. If I ask my own students to be risk-takers, then I need to be such myself. If I ask my students to be courageous in their learning, then I need to be such myself. If I ask my students to challenge the “status-quo” of learning, then I need to do such myself. Does that mean ignoring safety? No. It means recognizing the importance of it, but also being courageous enough to understand that “change is the opportunity to do something amazing.”

Therefore, I’m choosing to embrace this change as an opportunity to do something amazing for students (instead of being fearful or consistently asking myself, “what am I doing?”).

The only means by doing such is consistently embracing the aforementioned theme of “forward movement;” embracing the change that has occurred. In moving forward, I am exceptionally thankful to grow as a learner and teacher leader at Centennial Campus Magnet Middle. I am eager and thrilled to begin this year as Principal Katie McMillan is allowing myself and the other 8th grade science teacher to provide our students with a truly authentic learning experience. A learning experience that which I know will challenge me to be a better educator. A learning experience that will push our students to be the best that they can be as critical learners and citizens of our community (…but more on that to come in the weeks ahead!).

For now, it is my hope that we all take time to reflect and consider this question:

“Are we, as educators, risk-taking so as to create opportunities for our students to do something amazing?”

Rachel Lawrence

Rachel Lawrence teaches eighth grade science at Southeast Middle School in Rowan County and is a 2014-15 Kenan Fellow. Lenovo and NovantHealth supported her fellowship.