What seems like a million years ago, I was a reading specialist in an elementary school that had recently rolled out an entirely new curriculum for grades K-5. I, along with our Staff Development Specialist, had the unenviable position of training teachers for those curriculum changes and while most were lovely to work with, some took “shooting the messenger” to all new lengths.
I find myself in a similar position in my job right now. I was hired to implement a new curriculum design for Junior High Religious Ed at the church were I work. The program preceding me was very different than what I proposed. In the name of “accommodating busy parents” there was a huge enrollment of sporadic classes or home-school programs that utilized pen and paper textbooks with seemingly little accountability for the students and parents. Just like in my elementary school years ago, there are many fantastic, hard-working people in this church who have worked for years to educate their kids and give them a sense of Church that will last forever. However, just like my former elementary school, largely the program at this church appeared to not be working for the majority of kids on the books. So, in we came to change it and man have we incurred the wrath that so often comes when you bring in new.
I won’t go on and on about how personal some people get. There is no reason to give those people any air-time here. What I will say is that I am trying my best, as I did all those years ago with the teachers, to hear all their sides and take into consideration how they must be feeling in order to lash out as they are.
Change, is hard. Change is excruciating when it is thrust upon you. Let’s be clear, these changes are being thrust upon these people, many of whom saw no reason for them to begin with. Much like grief, our reactions to change can happen in stages and it’s up to me to see through the stages and try to find the heart of the people.
When they lash out in anger, I can hear the disappointment and fear. I know, as a busy mom, how terrifying it is when your schedule is thrown for a loop. If I’ve changed classes for these people to a night that has been earmarked for something else there is bound to be some anger that I’ve messed with their Tetris-like life schedule,and some fear about how it’s going to be handled.
Also, some will think that if we have suggested change, then that must mean we are accusing them of doing it wrong. Like many of the teachers from all those years ago, these parents and volunteer staff are mad because they think we’re telling them our way is better because they weren’t doing it right and no matter what we say to combat those beliefs, we have no power to over them.
The fact is people have a multitude of reactions to change and when you’re the one bringing the change on, you’re bound to incur some of those reactions right in your face.
I’m experiencing the acceptance of that in-your-face reaction in stages too.
Sunday night I had written my letter of resignation. Monday morning, after a few more emails and phone calls, I was so resolute (and honestly, pissed off) that I was determined to stay in this job just to spite the haters. By Monday evening I was just tired and ready to quit again, questioning why I took this job to begin with.
Here I sit, three days later trying to make sense of it all. There have been a few quiet cheers of support and more than one conversation that has allowed me a second of perspective. I will not hate back. I will not get angry at these folks for getting angry. All of their points are valid because they are feeling them and feelings are never invalid.
What I also will not do though, is allow them to personally weaken me. The program we have designed is good. The program we have designed was created with the benefit of families in mind. I believe I was called to this job (yes, called) to revolutionize (yes, revolutionize) the way kids are educated and accepted as members (and future change-agents) of the Catholic Church. This program was designed to do just that. If it doesn’t work perfectly into the already over-packed schedules, that is an unfortunate byproduct that I am sorry for but not that I am “guilty of inflicting because I do not care.” I am not forcing anyone to do anything except perhaps prioritize, and I won’t apologize for that.
Change is hard. I will do my best to remember that and treat everyone kindly.
Making change is hard too. I hope they extend a similar courtesy to me.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.