Last month our superintendent retired. The timing of his announcement caught many within our organization by surprise. Expressions of congratulations on a great career and excitement for the opportunities that lie ahead for him poured into the district office. And then? Then came the realization that things were about to change. A period of transition has been thrust upon us.
Transitions can be both interesting and challenging. There is a subtle but important difference between change and transition. Change is
situational; it can be an event: something that happens. Transitions are psychological. A transition evolves out of how one feels about and reacts to a change. It's not the just the event alone
that causes the transition; it's the inner-reorientation and
meaning-redefinitions people make as they incorporate those changes into their lives. Paradoxically education is a field where change and transition seem almost constant. Having effective strategies to deal with transitions is a valuable 21st century skill.
Colorado State University authors S. Quick, R.J. Fetsch and M. Rupured offer many strategies for coping with transitions. One strategy that resonates with me is taking a seasons approach to transitions, likening different types of response to fall, winter and spring. Fall transitions break old patterns. They involve saying farewell to familiar people, places and routines. Transitions that evoke winter bring feelings of emptiness,
numbness, and confusion. Such transitions occurs when people haven't yet connected to new situations and aren't yet completely disconnected from the past. Springlike transitions require the letting go of the old
relationships, situations or events and starting anew. Just as spring
leaves bud and flowers bloom, in a spring transition, people find new energy to make a
new beginning. (For a more in depth look at this analogy see William Bridges book Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes)
Research suggests resilient people handle transitions better. Building resilience involves maintaining an optimistic outlook, taking steps to positively influence the things one can control and having the wisdom and confidence not to worry or fixate on the things over which one has no control. Developing a good network of friends both at work and away from the office always helps one navigate the choppy periods of uncertainty that accompany transitions. One should also look after their health and well being by getting enough sleep and exercise.
Its important to remember that transitions. no matter how challenging, don't last forever. Just like the seasons, transitions do pass. To paraphrase Shakespeare's Richard III there may be no guarantees that our winters of discontent will be made glorious summer, but through awareness and positive response our stern alarums may be changed to merry meetings and our dreadful marches to delightful measures. Recognizing a transition for what it is and moving forward with resilience and a positive attitude can dispel or lessen feelings of anxiety and uncertainty and help us welcome a new season of change.