At this time of year as we move into the fall season and dig out our cool weather gear, I am grateful to be living in a place where I can become a full participant in nature’s glorious cycle of change. As we track the transition of the earth’s journey around the sun and the landscape explodes in vibrant hues of yellow, gold, orange and vermillion it is easy to become immersed in the beauty of the natural world. This year it feels like the leaves were slow to change color.
However, as the pups and I recently made our weekend trek through the woods and the forest became a magnificent show of color, I began to contemplate change as a natural part of all living things. Including us.
Why is it that despite the fact that change is an inevitable part of life we humans instinctively tend to resist it? Some of the most profound changes in our lives happen slowly and subtly, over time. One day parents send their children off to kindergarten and the next they are attending senior sports banquets or welcoming their freshman home from the first semester of college. And all are wondering, “How did we get here so quickly?”
Unforeseen change can happen suddenly. It can blindside us, shake us up and knock us off our feet. We might discover that the company wants to us to relocate across the country. Our career path may take an unexpected turn or we might suffer the personal loss of someone we love.
At the beginning of September my family had to cope with the unexpected death of my younger sister. As we continue to work through a profound sense of sadness and loss, the members of my family are learning adapt to a “new normal” and trying to figure out how to navigate a world without Laura.
Ironically, the Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus suggested, “The only constant is change.” No matter what type of change we experience, like it or not it becomes an essential lesson that ultimately winds up contributing to our growth.
The ability to adapt to change is a cornerstone of healthy, thriving organizations. As a school district we understand that it is our responsibility to respond to both internal and external forces which require us to move beyond that which we have always done.
Each year, for instance, we revise and adopt new and existing policies, including policies on bullying, social media and technology that are designed to keep our students safe in an age when one mistake can have life altering consequences. Because strengthening our security is an important priority we have implemented new visitor protocols, updated our facilities rental procedures, and revised our internal drilling processes.
As we research best practices, we modify our curriculum to address new content standards, graduation requirements, and to assist our students in acquiring the skills necessary for becoming Robbinsville Ready.
This year, the district will engage in a collaborative approach to change through the strategic planning process. As we move forward, we intend to gather a diverse group of stakeholders comprised of parents, teachers, administrators, students, board and community members to seek help in assessing our current reality and identifying areas in need of improvement.
We will encourage this community to consider complex questions and urge each member to take risks in their thinking about how they view schools and education. We will reimagine Robbinsville and move to create an intentional, purposeful and well thought out action plan that will lead us into the future.
As we follow the cycle of nature, we are reminded that Autumn is a time to fall back, slow down and reflect upon our lives and the legacy we are creating for those that will follow us. This slowing down allows us to contemplate what we need in order to build our strength and to grow in wisdom, insight and awareness.
If, as Heraclitus suggests, we see change as a naturally occurring event, much like the change of seasons, we can embrace it as a catalyst for growth and for becoming our best selves.
For everything, there is a season.
Kathie Foster is superintendent of Robbinsville Schools.