I have begun my first year as an instructional coach for a high school of 1300 students. Every day I walk by this poster that says “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” As I am only beginning my tenure as a coach, I find myself reflecting on it a lot.
It’s overwhelming to join a new staff and begin a new job. At first I hadn’t made a plan for how to manage all the challenges. New tasks and people fill each day. With all this newness, I am learning a lot! Not knowing what to expect each day, I seem to be off kilter. At times like these, it’s easy to lose focus and escape in the daily minutiae. But daily that poster reminds me that I have to control how I react to change.
So, I created a plan based on my foundational beliefs and school initiatives. I established a structure and direction in which to filter my tasks. Now, I define my problems, focus on solutions, then choose actions that correspond with my foundational belief that all kids can learn and grow. That way when I get overwhelmed with new challenges, my foundational belief points me in the right direction.
Our school is in the midst of a large shift. Like any other community, change occurs hesitantly. The unknown stands in front of us and we become insecure. We all ask questions like: How will it work? What will happen to how I do things? Why do we have to do this?
In our ever-changing world of education, we cannot expect to maintain any procedure for long. Often schools focus on developing learning standards, curriculum, and systems only to reassess and establish new ones. Although it’s exciting to implement better options, the continual flux becomes difficult on a staff.
Instead of viewing our flexibility as a strength, often we get tired and overwhelmed. And that’s where I remembered the poster: 90% of life is how we deal with it. I wondered if my individual plan would work on a larger level.
When staff get overwhelmed, coaches can help them regroup and revisit foundational beliefs. Instead of focusing on change and challenge, coaches can help staff center its vision to who they are as a school.
So I tried it. Through frank conversations, our staff realized our foundational belief – our dedication to our students. So we remained dedicated to our students as we try new strategies, get frustrated with the unknown, and fail. These things will happen, yet, we can try again because we are focused on our dedication to our students.
Grounding ourselves in our dedication to our students can help us steer our students toward owning their learning. As our staff uses our foundational belief to filter new challenges and changes, we are more liable to shift successfully.
When things get too much, we can revisit our foundations and use them to guide us to create new structures. It is then we will find our school stronger and our students growing. That poster really helped: 90% of life is how we deal with it.
About our Guest Author: Elsa Andreasen Glover is in the middle of her first year as an instructional coach at Kaneland High School in Maple Park, Illinois. A National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescent Social Studies, Elsa taught 7th graders for 18 years. She holds MAT from Aurora University and writes monthly perspectives for her local NPR station. You can follow Elsa on Twitter at @elsainga.