Change: From acceptance to serenity

by Dr. Jill Klefstad - UW Stout

Change…it is inevitable and constant. In fact, "There is nothing permanent except change" (Heraclitus).  Sometimes changes are welcome and yet at other times, change leaves me struggling with acceptance.

In light of the recent Democratic and Republican conventions, the word acceptance could be heard in the given speeches. The meaning of the word acceptance was a plea for support in the upcoming election. Candidates and those who spoke on behalf of the candidates shared details of their platforms outlining how accepting their nomination, would lead to a win that would bring important change and peace to the world.

When you stop to think about it, we are presented each day with a myriad of choices that require a degree of acceptance on our part. These choices include family matters, religious beliefs, political views and also what we choose to pursue as a profession.  For me, the significance of acceptance is serenity or peace of mind and heart.  However, my struggle with accepting change is difficult when there is disconnect between my expectations of a person, place, thing or a situation. Typically this battle occurs when changes impose upon my strong beliefs and routinized behaviors. Although I can argue the pros and cons of any proposed change in my head, the struggle comes when trying to convince my heart.

When I chose teaching as my profession years ago, I never imagined that I would be challenged to accept so many changes to educational practices through the years.  From curriculum planning which used the framework of Madeline Hunter to Charlotte Danielson, to behavior management strategies utilizing "time out" method to more consistent strategies such as Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies (PBIS), developmentally appropriate practice to more defined standards such as Early Learning Standards and Common Core Standards and from after school teachers meetings to Professional Learning Communities (PLC).  Although it takes time to identify the impact of change, I eventually arrive at some level of acceptance if I ask questions and listen to   the voices of those who speak with wisdom often based upon their own experiences.     

Another school year will soon begin! Undoubtedly the new academic year will require a shift in attitude, thinking and action under new leadership that began in July. Although this year will prove to be challenging, I have created a personal platform goal; to seek "Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."  (Reinhold Niebuhr).
 
Professionally, my goal is in line with one university level goal, which is to increase recruitment and retention of students. While this has been one of my goals for the past five years, with the focus on increasing the number of male students to the early childhood program, I have shifted my platform. While reflecting upon this idea of change being inevitable, I am framing my retention efforts under the umbrella of acceptance.  College students encounter many changes requiring acceptance. These changes range from sharing a small space with a stranger, to moving away from home, to money and time management, to ensuring that they have chosen the right profession; early childhood education.  

To foster a spirit of acceptance and inspiration for students a bookmark for success will be shared. Each adjective begins with the letter I to serve as a reminder that accepting change comes from within. There is power in I!  
The following Five I's can promote acceptance of change that occurs in our lives. The list includes:
•    Involved: Commit to joining organizations on the local and state level that support men in early childhood such as Menteach.org and the campus men organization.
•    Informed: Become informed about the teaching profession and especially the field of early childhood education.
•    Inquisitive: Ask questions that will contribute to understanding.  If you wonder about something, ask about it.
•    Ingenious: Be creative and inventive in your thinking and in your actions; your idea may be the impetus to greater things.
•    Inspirational: Be an example to others and to the children.

When I made the decision to pursue a degree in early childhood education I had no idea of what would lie ahead.  But despite all the changes to education, I have maintained serenity and the conviction that I would choose this profession all over again.  There are days when I struggle with changes in day to day routines but I have also discovered the power of I by embracing the Five I's.

While "there is nothing permanent except change", perhaps, the best platform any of us can share with students, and one another, is to choose to model acceptance.

[MenTeach: Dr. Jill has been working to increase and retain men in her education program. We asked her to write about her experiences as a woman facilitator. You can find the other articles here.]