Question of the Day: “How can I change in a comfortable way?”

Change is an extremely difficult thing. It means moving on, letting go, traversing through unchartered territory. It also means meeting unseen challenges and leaving the safety and security of all things known. Many people dislike change, and they turn themselves inside out to avoid it. Others can enjoy change in some circumstances but struggle in other ones. I feel like I am from the latter category, which leads me today’s question: “How can I change in a comfortable way?”

My students are failing. They are faltering and falling short on even the simplest assignments. Virtual, hybrid, in-person learning…it doesn’t matter what you call it or where the student is in the continuum of attending or not attending school, my students are falling further and further behind. My inclusion teacher and I are just picking up broken pieces and gluing them together day after day. We are struggling to learn new technology, understanding student learning in this new environment, and meeting kids where they are at so we can get them where they should be. It’s exhausting, and every day there is something new: something new to learn, something new to consider, something new to do.

I have been reading, researching and discussing constantly to come up with a solution to help all of my students. My answer is to wait. I am waiting for the students who are falling behind. I am not leaving them behind. So what does this mean?

It means no student is going to get a zero on an skills assignment.

It means creating assignments and allowing those students who are ready to move on to move on.

It means letting students have all of the time they need to complete the work they need to be successful.

It means changing the way I do things.

It means changing the way I view the assignments we are doing in my classroom with rolling deadlines and no late points deducted.

It means putting my money where my mouth is when I tell them my assignments are not “busy work” but absolutely integral to their learning process and I care about them too much to have those assignments be just another zero in a gradebook and another missed learning opportunity for them.

I’ll be honest. My students are amazing at getting out of doing school work. They have figured out every trick in the book, and we, as educators, let them. We let them because it’s easy. We let them because someone let us at one time. We learned that education was a train, and if you missed your train, teachers were totally cool with letting you sit at the station. It’s their choice? Right?

Not now. They are not choosing it now. They are trying to navigate their education through the worst crisis I have ever seen in my 20 years as a teacher. And I decided I am not leaving anyone behind.

This type of challenge requires change. It requires me to change the way I have taught for 20 years. It requires me to question the deepest parts of me and what it has meant to be a teacher. I need to trust myself and pray this the right path.

Here’s what I know…failing them feels wrong. Exempting them and moving them through more material feels wrong. Waiting for them while pushing the rest of my class forward feels right.

The best part is that I can now do this because technology and one-to-one devices are enabling this to happen. The pandemic has pushed forward all of these changes and it is making differentiated learning much easier for teachers. Now, we just have to grow more comfortable with change, which brings me back to my original question.

The answer: I can’t. It’s not comfortable for me. It is one of the most uncomfortable things. It feels scary and unsafe, but it feels right.

Perhaps the nature of change is the part about it being uncomfortable because this is the part that helps us grow. If we took the uncomfortable part out, it would no longer differ from the normal every day stuff, and what can we learn from that? It is not until we face change and know and expect it will come with uncomfortable feels, which leave us torn and vulnerable, we can face the challenges that come with it with an open heart and a grateful mind.

Love and Light!