When I was growing up, my parents used to tell me that I never fully appreciated what was happening at the present moment because I was always too busy making future plans. The Aesop fable about the prepared ant and the lazy grasshopper had probably traumatized me to some extreme, and I strongly believed that the more I planned, the less uncertainty would come my way (talk about an unlikely candidate for a career in special education!).
The second I entered this field, all my preconceptions about the wisdom behind solid scheduling and relying on daily plans leapt right out the window. My days were filled with multiple unscheduled visitors, single-student behaviors that served as intermissions for the whole class, and lesson plans that worked SO MUCH BETTER in my head than in practice. I realized that if I didn’t learn how to be flexible and accept constant change, I was going to end up another statistic in the “education career overturn” bracket.
My new daily plan was to take a deep breath, laugh it off, pick up the pieces, and move on. I began looking forward to “teachable moments” on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. After two years, I felt on top of my game. It was like I could read my kids and I could count on what they would respond to. I had great relationships with their families, and my support and friendships on campus were ideal. I had no clue that my “go-with-the-flow” perspective would soon be put to the test.
A week before this school year began, I changed jobs. It was a quick and unanticipated change, literally a split decision that needed to be made because an opportunity presented itself and I knew I had to jump on it. It was like someone snapped their fingers and suddenly there I was in a new room with new students, new grades and curriculum, and a whole new set of needs. Suddenly I was the new kid.
I say “kid” because after all the emotions I’ve gone through these past couple weeks I am convinced that we never really do grow up all the way. I was excited during the day and had nightmares of oversleeping at night. I looked for a familiar face to sit with at the “welcome back” luncheon and I scrambled to keep up with training that I was convinced everyone else had gone through three times already.
No matter how “on top of it” I have felt before, this year I have to learn the ropes all over again. There are new procedures, IEP programs, and inclusion rules. I have to make new friends with general ed. teachers and gain the trust of my colleagues, students, and their families all over again. Luckily, everyone I work with has been amazing and oh-so-helpful, but I know there will be bumps in the road…it’s just the nature of the beast.
Change is challenging, but it is good. This is a lesson that will be re-learned in various contexts, so we might as well embrace it. I don’t feel we should ever get too comfortable in this field. The feeling of security had allowed me to focus on my class activities, but I had forgotten what it was like to advocate for myself in addition to my students. I had also forgotten what it was like to meet a class full of people for the first time and nervously hope that they all like me.
If we all jumped into the unknown once in a while, we might learn something new about our capabilities in the classroom. If we let our students see us go through changes in our lives, maybe it would allow them to open up more so we could learn something new about their capabilities as well.
Oh, and incidentally, even adamantly prepared ants have to be capable of change. If they weren’t able to adjust their stride length to correctly calculate their distance to food, they’d never find their way back home. I’m not saying I suddenly side with the grasshopper—laziness is the last thing we need in our schools. I’m just saying that if Aesop had known that, his story may have ended with a slightly different moral.