Change isn’t easy. In fact, it’s plain old difficult. This year, after 7 years in special education and 11 years at the school where I started my teaching career, I begin a two-year contract as a Special Assignment teacher in the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board. I obviously wanted to leave the school where I was working – I had to apply to be hired for a new role – but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t love what I was doing and working with the colleagues that have become my friends over the past decade or so. Why did I leave? Was it for a better commute? No, in fact my new role has me driving a lot more. Was it for a raise? Actually, no, my salary is exactly where it would be if I stayed in my previous role. I applied for and accepted a different role within the DPCDSB because it was time for new challenges, new learning and, hopefully, the opportunity to have a larger, positive impact on my profession.
My wife gave birth to our first son on August 13th, 2016. Now there’s a big, beautiful, mind-blowing life change to accompany the change in my career; it’s been an adjustment on all fronts. Going to work in the morning is bitter-sweet because it’s tough to leave my 3-month-old son, even though I’m eager to do an excellent job in my new position. How do I plan on meeting the elevated expectations that these changes in my life and career present? How does any educator handle a simultaneous change in life and career responsibilities?
I’ve learned that you need support from the people you care about most. If my wife and family didn’t support my decision to make a change in my career, I simply couldn’t do it. It’s an obvious piece of the puzzle, but it’s essential. It’s important to remember that people close to you will be affected when you make decisions that impact the amount of time you spend on your work. I’m doing my best to balance my new family commitments with my desire to excel in my new role. Sometimes I feel like I am burning the candle at both ends AND here and there I’m also holding the candle over a burning match; the matches are temporary, but they take their toll. Some of us need to be reminded that it’s okay to do nothing once in a while and our family and friends are great candidates for the job.
When you’re starting a new role it’s also vital that you find ways to de-stress. It may feel normal to narrow your focus down to only work as you try to wrap your head around your new responsibilities, but ignoring the need to do the things that bring you balance is a mistake. For me that means continuing to be an athlete and showing up for my hockey games, even when I feel like skipping one. De-stressing is different for everyone but whether it’s yoga, long walks, cooking, reading, writing, singing or dancing, doing what makes you who you are is never a bad idea. It’s also probably a good idea to have more than one “go to” when it comes to de-stressing. I think I’m lucky to have reading, music, writing and spending time with my family to go along with my hockey.
Professionally it’s a given that you will need to learn, learn, and learn some more when you start a new role (that’s why you need support and a chance to de-stress!). I’ve been fortunate enough to have a great team to work with and a coordinator who has facilitated mentorships and connections throughout the team. The situation will be different for each educator depending on the new role they’re moving into and the amount of support they are receiving from administrators, coordinators, etc. Regardless, it definitely helps to connect with other educators who are in your role. This might mean networking with educators outside of your school or even outside of your board, but it will be worth the effort.
It’s almost certain that the first year in a new role will be filled with challenges. No matter how much support we have, how much learning we do and how often we find ways to de-stress, we’re bound to struggle at times. My plan for the tough times is to be patient enough to give myself the time necessary to grow into the role and confident enough to believe that I will, eventually, be great at it. I’d suggest that anyone starting a new role should do the same.
What’s your experience with starting a new role? Do you have any advice to give?
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