I’ve found over the years that every group of people is as distinct in personality as every individual. And so, I feel as if I’m conditioned to change. But we all have our limits.
This year was different. We spent the summer moving from one house to the other (an impulsive move, honestly – there were fewer than sixty days between our initial decision to “look” to the day we moved).
Also, this year I’m teaching a class I’ve never taught, to an age group I’ve never taught. I’ve taught English and writing classes to 7th graders through 10th graders, and I’ve taught American Lit to 11th graders. This year, I’m teaching World Lit to 12th graders.
Our school has grown exponentially, too. We had been growing steadily at about 10% per year since we were founded in 2006. But this fall, we are opening with roughly 50% more students than we closed with in the spring. That’s more than enough for a huge cultural shift.
And so, I’ve been scared.
This is one of the hokiest metaphors I’ve ever come up with, but here you go: it seems that I regard change in life like it’s the same as change from a dollar. You buy something that costs 75 cents. You hand over a dollar, and you get 25 cents in change. That’s the way change works: you get less than what you started with. You lose something in the exchange. (I told you this was hokey, and I know you gain whatever you bought, but bear with me.)
The reason change is hard is that so much of it is about letting go…losing…saying goodbye.
I had mixed feelings about moving this summer. I adore our previous house. The community, for one thing, was the perfect mix of quirky small town and…well, it wasn’t a mix, I guess. It was, truly, the perfect quirky small town. I love the house itself as well, since we had really made it our own, adding a sunroom and changing the layout of the family room and kitchen. It really was my home – the kind of place where I could physically feel my shoulders release and my breathing slow as I’d round the corner and catch sight of it through my windshield.
I have mixed feelings about all those new students at our school. I want more kids to come to the school. I love kids, and I know they’ll love our school. There is this fear, though, that we will lose something culturally by the increase. How will our school still be our school? Will we be able to maintain the family atmosphere with this big of a family?
I’m thrilled to teach a new class with a new set of students, but I fear the answers to those questions that roll around in the back of my mind when I’m writing lesson plans and reviewing the materials I’ll be teaching: will I have enough command of the material for this class to be of value to the students? Will I be able to keep the attention and interest of these kids, who are itching to move on to the next phase of their lives? Did I sacrifice too much by trading in my ninth graders and the books and materials I’m comfortable teaching (the books I’ve read five or six times over)?
It feels like I’m destined to have less than I started with. Less home, less community, less confidence, less…less…less.
And that’s true. Anatole France said, “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”
But it’s also true that change is necessary, and change ushers in new life, which we would have sacrificed (without knowing it) if we’d stayed still.
So I’ll go ahead and grieve the change, but I won’t grieve for long. I need to lift my head and watch. Watch for the newness and the gain.