An Arlington Educator Urges Us to Tackle the New School Year Using an ‘Attitude Option’
September 21, 2023
September 21, 2023
By Richard R. Russey
Transition and change are embedded in our DNA (think cell division), as well as in our exterior world, both personal and professional. We know this, yet as real and as constant as change is, we often experience it as an intruder—unwanted, scary, and even debilitating.
The forward movement of our lives can be experienced in ways running along a continuum from transfixing immobility on one end of the spectrum to triumphant exultation on the other. Most of us experience change somewhere in between these two extremes, depending on the level of change involved—from minor, almost unnoticed hiccups to the earth-shaking, life-altering, highly impactful transfiguration of one’s life, school environment, and/or community. There is no doubt that for the most part we are creatures of comfort; we seek the familiar and are soothed and comforted by the known.
It’s undeniable, however, that within change great power exists, power that can be either enervating or energizing. Each person, team, organization, and/or community can decide how to react to this power: Remember, there’s always a choice in how we react to a change experience. One of the great global Renaissance women of our time, Maya Angelou, wisely contributed to the dialogue on change by declaring, “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refused to be reduced by it.” Clearly her mindset accepts change as inevitable, but something around which an attitude option exists as a choice. In Angelou’s case, she embraces the power she possesses to be resolute about maintaining her balance and purpose, refusing to be diminished in any way. In fact, when looking at Angelou’s life, one could fairly accurately opine that she has embraced change in such a way as to enhance her life (one outcome being wisdom).
We don’t often control the changes that come our way, but we do control our reaction to it. To recognize and embrace that we always have an attitude option is to intentionally see change as an opportunity for positive benefits and outcomes. Looking at the challenge and power of change, legendary basketball player and coach John Wooden said, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” Wooden’s words are useful and energizing, in part because they acknowledge the fact that all of us experience failure, perhaps many times, through the course of our lives, but that failure itself is not fatal. But he speaks powerfully about the locomotive of life as being fueled by change. Again, an attitude option is referenced, however obliquely.
So, the challenge that confronts us is how we decide to respond to the transition and change experience. Here are some positive options that may help us successfully navigate change in our own lives:
When the going gets tough, which it most assuredly will from time to time, it might be a good idea to keep this quote by Robert C. Gallagher in mind: “Change is inevitable—except from a vending machine.”
Let’s go into our work for this new school year with vigor, excitement, and perhaps as importantly, the flexibility and understanding that change is the only constant there is, and that it can be challenging and invigorating!
Richard Russey (email@example.com), a member of the Arlington Education Association, teaches visual arts at the Montessori Public School of Arlington.