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Dealing with Change

The educational landscape is always changing but 2020 saw it change in profound ways which required everyone working in the field to be flexible and adaptable like never before. All of this within a context where you have had to balance your concerns for yourself, your own families and friends with concerns for the children/ young people and families you work with. You have all demonstrated huge commitment and energy and will, no doubt, experienced a whole raft of emotions.

One of the things we know about dealing with change is the importance of time:

Change in itself isn’t the issue. It’s the lack of preparation for change and the lack of time to adequately implement the change that really challenges.

Elizabeth Holmes, Optimus Education

The almost immediate transfer to working remotely will have been a huge change for many of you working in education and has demanded both technological and pedagogical skills to be able to deliver either live or recorded sessions. It hasn’t been about doing online what you would do in the class – you’ve had to consider when and how to incorporate digital tools into your teaching, which takes time and support and dedication as stated by

It requires significant dedication from teachers, who are expected to maintain strong relationships with their students and deliver lesson content remotely, while also managing children’s learning and coping with the stress related to the pandemic.

Tracey Wilichhowski and Cristobal Cobo, World Bank blog

It’s important to understand how we may feel about change and how it impacts on us over time. The Psychologist, John Fisher, came up with a ‘Personal Transition Curve’ which provides a sequence in the level of self-esteem as you experience change. 

https://www.businessballs.com/freepdfmaterials/fisher-transition-curve-2012bb.pdf

To illustrate the curve here is an example using possible reactions of an education professional to the move to remote learning (remember everyone’s curve will be different – one person may not experience all the phases, others may get stuck in disillusionment):

Anxiety: What is going on? I don’t understand what teaching remotely will mean? What am I going to do?

Happiness: Others feel the same as me (relief). We can do it, we can support the children (optimism)

Fear: What are people going to think of my teaching online? (How will people perceive me?)

Threat: How am I going to cope with both live and recorded teaching online. This isn’t what I have been trained in (A core change to our self-perception)

Guilt: Did I really sound like that when I talk to the children? (Awareness of how may have been in the past – re-defining sense of self)

Depression: I don’t know I can do this. Where do I fit in? (Awareness that past behaviours are at odds with what needed and feel demotivated and confused)

Gradual acceptance: Begin to develop confidence in teaching online, feel good about what I am doing (can see self doing it in future)

Moving forward: I know what works with the children online. This is how I am going to continue (confident and positive, have embraced the change)

However, you may begin to feel, at an earlier stage in the curve, that you don’t agree with what is happening and you enter the stage of

Disillusionment: ‘I can’t do this. I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s the right way to support the children.’

Or

Denial: I am going to do what I think is right, not what Senior Management say.

Or

Anger: You are making me do this. You’re causing me stress.

This can change into guilt or depression as you begin to turn this inwards.

This is when you may need external help.

Developing resilience or remaining resilient with the support of your family, friends, colleagues and the education system can be instrumental in dealing with change. Being resilient means you can

  • persist and focus on achieving objectives
  • monitor your emotions and remain controlled
  • keep moving forward
  • overcome obstacles
  • maintain the same level of effort and energy
  • keep positive
  • deal with criticism from stakeholders
  • stay relaxed and composed

Reivich, K and Shatte A (2002) The Resilience Factor, 7 Essential Skills for Overcoming Life’s Inevitable Obstacles, Broadway Books 

Resources:

https://www.businessballs.com/freepdfmaterials/fisher-transition-curve-2012bb.pdf

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/140295/the-resilience-factor-by-karen-reivich-phd-and-andrew-shatte-phd/

References:

https://blogs.worldbank.org/education/coping-improving-and-accelerating-supporting-teachers-pandemic-and-beyond

https://blog.optimus-education.com/coping-and-responding-change-your-school

Useful Worksheets: https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheets/stress/adults https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheets/relaxation/adults 

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