Change—Replacing Good with Better

This post was authored by Sandy Shedenhelm, Senior Director at Battelle for Kids. A version of this post originally appeared in the Battelle for Kids Learning Hub. 

Change is difficult. I was reminded of this recently when my husband Matt accepted a new job in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We had a good life in Ohio, but we decided to go for a better opportunity to secure our future. So, after living in Columbus, Ohio for 45 years, I was off to live in a new place where I knew no one but Matt and our realtor.

Was I excited for a new adventure in a beautiful place? Yes. Was I thrilled to leave snowy winters behind? Yes. Was I nervous about leaving my family? My friends? Yes. Was I concerned about what it would be like to work remotely? Yes.

I, like most people, am a creature of habit. I find comfort in familiar surroundings. From a regular sleep schedule to a preferred parking space at work, routine provides stability. Knowing what to expect eases anxiety. 

The first few weeks in South Florida weren’t easy. Matt and I, along with our dog Rudy, were living on the 8th floor of an apartment in the middle of the city. From noisy neighbors to countless trips to take Rudy outside, working from home wasn’t easy. Heck, getting a good night’s rest wasn’t easy either.

But, each day life got a bit better. How? I had people to support me and I tackled one day at a time, one task at a time. Matt came home early every day to drive around together and explore our new community. My family called daily to check in. My colleagues, too, stayed in constant touch, always making me feel connected with my Battelle for Kids family.

Now, even after a short time, I can drive around on my own and not get lost. I have a Florida plate on my car and a new driver’s license in my wallet. I get up early to walk before I start my day. I work regularly from Panera to be around people. I now have a new routine… a new set of behaviors.

This big adventure has indeed reminded me that change is hard, but it is also… 
•    Energizing with support from others;
•    Doable when you tackle small steps one day at a time;
•    And worth it when the change replaces good with better. 

Now that school has started, change is inevitable for you, too. In fact, change seems to be the one constant in education these days. I simply encourage you to do what I did. Don’t try to go it alone. Work with your colleagues when trying to implement something new. Start small. Make sure each change you make is comfortably part of your routine before adding more to your plate.

While attending a conference this past summer, I had the pleasure of once again hearing formative assessment guru Dylan Wiliam speak. He reminded the audience that teachers and leaders do good things every day in schools. That so often when we are making a change in our practice, it is not about replacing a bad practice with a good one… but rather about replacing a good practice with a better one. 

As I embark on my 25th year in education, I hope you have your best year yet. I know I plan to.