Saturday, April 20, 2013

Changing Behaviors to Change Beliefs...A Personal Reflection

I recently had to give up drinking coffee due to chronic pain issues.  This was very hard for me to do, because I drank three cups of coffee a day (sometimes more).  Coffee was a staple of my life that I relied on for waking up, getting my ideas going, a pick-me up during the day, my energy when the day's work was tiring, a stress reliever and just the comfort of a warm cup in my hand.  When students at school draw pictures of me, they often include a coffee cup in my hand!  If you, too, are a coffee drinker, then I'm sure you can imagine my reluctance to give it up.

It was not easy, but I did what I was told while dragging my feet, not believing this could possibly help my situation.  I looked for decaffeinated teas to try to trick my brain by still having a hot cup in my hand, but it was so disgusting to me it was no substitute.  On mornings after a late night I struggled to get moving, thinking, "maybe just one cup wouldn't be so bad" but then mentally slapped my hand at the thought.  One day my self-control lacked and while on a drive to a meeting, my car was an auto-pilot and swung
through the McDonald's drive through to get my favorite mocha frappe as I always do without even realizing it until afterwards.  I'm not one to waste money, so I drank it knowing it was a dumb idea, and later regretted it (both mentally and physically).

Why am I sharing this? Not to whine, complain or get empathy...I promise I'm done with that aspect of my story! I share this, because it made me think of teaching practices, beliefs, and change.  It is often our beliefs
that drive our teaching practices and our experience leading to changes in our beliefs that changes our practices.  But what about when a change is given to us and we don't want it?  No matter what the change is, change is hard.

As I think about changes we have made in our building over the years, they haven't been easy.  I recently had a conversation with a teacher in which he talked about how much he hates change and didn't want to teach with Daily5/Cafe, but now loves teaching reading and writing.  He didn't want to teach with our new math program, Math Expressions, but now loves it.  Why?  Because he sees the incredible impact that both have had for student learning and enjoys teaching both subjects much more now.

If change can be good, then why do we resist change so much?

Most of us want to continue with what we already know, what we are comfortable with. It is easier that way.    It is what we believe to be "right."  I think some of my mornings could be much more enjoyable if I grabbed a cup of coffee, but then I remind myself of why I had to stop.  As a teacher, it is easy to revert back to old teaching habits or drag your feet on a new initiative, because what you are used to doing is already habit, is easy, and is what you know.  When we stick with the change and then see a positive change in student learning or student behaviors (or changes in whatever the initiative was meant to address), then we are convinced and become believers of the change.  For many of us, we need to change our behaviors to see the results that will impact our beliefs.

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