All this change ….

How many blocks tall are you now?

For adults like me who work in schools September means being confronted with a world of change.  There are new faces of course, and names to learn. There are new courses, fresh paint on the walls and sometimes new structures and renovations to get used to.

And the familiar is unfamiliar too. Children have grown taller, and they return to school full of stories of summer adventures and new experiences. They are changed by the time spent playing in the yard, their new friends, their summer jobs and community service. They return with new interests and passions, revised dreams and aspirations.  Now they can swim, have a passion for photography or physics, improv theater or mountain trekking, found new depths of empathy, tested themselves, joined a life-changing cause, know what they want to study in college.

And, disconcertingly, we realize that we are back at the beginning. Here are small children just beginning their adventures in school, learning new routines for the first time. And teachers start at the beginning the all important work of building community norms and routines they took for granted in June. And gosh! Yes – we did teach beginning algebra last year and here we are again doing the same thing.

And most of these changes we welcome.

This is the circle of life in school. It has its seasons and its ever-evolving inevitability of change that we adjust to, welcome and celebrate.

Like the coming of autumn – we miss the days of summer but look forward to crisp mornings, the fall foliage, the first fire and wearing that favorite sweater again.

I read recently that 92% of two year olds have an online presence. (All those sonogram pics and baby photos posted on line and sent to the grandparents.) And that by the time many children are in elementary school they are googlable and already have a digital footprint. This is a new kind of change for most of us. And it has significance for us and the children we teach.

This is the other world of change that comes at us with a relentless and accelerating pace.  And it has implications for how we conduct ourselves in school.

If we are serious as educators then it means we have to be serious about our proficiency with digital tools.  If we want to protect our students and if we want to equip them for their futures then we have to be talking about it in school as well as modeling and building and sharing our own digital impact.

Some things are no longer acceptable in schools. Just as we no longer seek to tether children to their desks for hours on end (some schools like PDS never did) we also have to accept the hands-on responsibility for learning in the digital era. No more indulgent chuckles about those darn digital kids.

But it’s not about keeping up with the bewildering array of new tools that come at us wave after wave

It is rather a focus on how we teach – on pedagogy – and on the purpose of it all. And when we do that we open up the possibility for embracing change. This is a truly exciting time to be in education.  We now have the tools and resources for learning and collaboration that earlier educators could only dream about.

When we replace the fear of the unknown with the awareness of possibility – when we are driven by curiosity – then the new world of learning is an adventure.

This is the world our students inhabit. And so do we.

4th and 5th grade Reading CircleAnd here is just one example from 4th and 5th grade of how change can work.

Children  have been reading and writing about Natalie Babbitt’s fantasy novel Tuck Everlasting since it was first published in 1975.

But now – they can connect with readers within and beyond the confines of the classroom walls. In this Global Read-Aloud blog children join the community of readers who reflect, speculate, anticipate and comment on their reading.

This is a whole new and powerful way  for children to join what psycho-linguist Frank Smith once called “The Literacy Club”.

In another example from the summer, four girls used the publishing and collaborating tools available on line to create Have you Heard? – a magazine centered Have You Heard? A Magazine for the PDS Communityon change and school.

Some children are notoriously averse to change. They are nostalgic for the way things were notwithstanding they complained bitterly about them at the time.  Emotional connections endure. And learning about the past and knowing what once was is more important than ever. In times of change we need even more ties to history to serve as anchors, platforms and stabilizers.

And so – to accommodate these change-resistant children I say we should insist that these kids stop changing too.

All that growing and learning that they do….Stop it! We liked you the way you were.  It’s too stressful for us poor adults to deal with.  Not to mention the expense of all those new shoes

1 Comment

  1. Ali:

    Hi Josie,
    I really enjoyed reading your post. There were a lot of things in here that I agree with, but hadn’t really thought through that much. Awesome!
    -Ali

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