Typhani Harris | January 2015

It’s not the Change it’s the Transition

Education is the Leader in Change

Transitions is just a fancy word for: things are about to change!  We have all been on the precipice of change, and in the words of Bridges (2009), “it isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transition”.  The reason being, as Bridges (2009) puts it, the change is situational whereas the transition is psychological, and he places this psychological move into three phases, ending losing letting go, the neutral zone, and the new beginning.  The first phase seems to be the hardest because it is essentially an ending, you let go, you say goodbye, you move on.

The neutral phase is somewhere in limbo where you have said your goodbyes but the new state isn’t yet fully operational.  And finally, you welcome the new beginning with new energy and a new sense of purpose.  So, it is not the actual change that is difficult, it is the transition.

As educators, we deal with changes on a daily basis.  Education is the leader in change.  We have to change because there’s an assembly, change because a fire drill, change because a lesson didn’t work, or change because the students were unsuccessful on an assessment, and that’s just in our personal classrooms.  We also have to consider the policy changes, the standardized testing changes, and the all too familiar right this minute standards changes.  With all of the inevitable changes, how do we prepare ourselves?

First, accept the change.

As we move into second semester, begin with the specific changes you will be implementing within your classrooms, and acknowledge that it will not always be easy for the students to understand or accept the difference.  If you are rewriting the procedures or routines for the class, be up front with the students.  Let them in on the process, have them help in the readjustment.  (See my article on revising routines and procedures, Is it too late?)  Maybe you want to add more project based learning, or standards based grading into your curriculum, share it with your students, help them to understand the purpose, and then help them manage the transition.

When it comes to changes on the educational front, be ready, it’s never ending.  And it shouldn’t be.  We are charged with preparing students for a world that does not yet exist, so education must constantly evolve and adjust as our world evolves and adjusts. This doesn’t mean that every change is the right change, but it does mean that we  need to anticipate change, and we need to accept it and roll with it because educational change is an inevitable and constant cycle.

Second, be consistent.

Be very consistent with the change.  The worse thing to do it to hype up a new beginning, and then a week later forget about it.  Make a point to revisit the psychological transition with your students.  Check in at least once a month to see how they are doing with the change.  Solicit their feelings and ideas, and make them a part of the process.

This also rings true for administrative or school-wide changes, which is quite possibly my largest current frustration.  If a school intends to enact and implement a new change, then follow through with that change, don’t allow it to fall by the way side as other more pressing issues arise.  However, being consistent also means taking time.  Transitions do not happen over night.  Allow mistakes to occur, allow time for full implementation, and overall be consistent throughout.

Third, ensure success.

Help students to see the big picture, the end result.  If you are moving into something tangible like project based learning, help students to see the purpose and the possibilities of success due to the change.  Even if you are doing something more simple, like a routine change with in the classroom, help students to see how this will make class run more efficiently and create a more successful learning environment.

The same goes for educational changes.  We should assume that all changes are made with student interest at heart.  Although, it is sometimes hard to see or even believe that this is the case, we still must have faith in the system and trust that the success of our students is the ultimate reason for change.

Finally, Celebrate the change.

Even the smallest changes can have large impact, so celebrate all of the little successes throughout the change.  Embrace failure as a means to grow, and never stop learning and evoking more change!

Next Week: Secrets of a Dance Teacher

Technique, or not to Technique?

Just how much western codified dance technique should we be teaching in our beginning classes?  I often wrestle with this question.  Should we base it on the students, the standards, or the overall purpose of our programs?

Bridges, W. (2009). Managing Transition: Making the most of change.

About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Executive Director of Academic Affairs, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.