86vs2020 Collage

The Only Constant Is Change

This is part of a series of posts from nominees for our LifeChanger of the Year educator recognition program. We meet scores of fascinating LifeChangers every year who have interesting perspectives to share about children, education and life.

“The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.” ― Louis L’Amour

I started my teaching career in 1986. There was not much to learn in the way of technology that I had not learned during my student teaching; how to run the mimeograph, how to create acetates for the overhead projector, the importance of washing the chalkboard. Teachers taught and students learned.

In the early 1990s, technology started working its way into the classroom. Schools are always last. Think of it this way: It took 20 years to get the overhead projector from the bowling alley into the classroom.

The photo above demonstrates some of the huge differences between 1986 and 2020. Chalkboards are now Smartboards. A gradebook was actually a book and now it’s a spreadsheet.

We were so excited to get a computer in the classroom, but with that came a steep learning curve. As soon as you got familiar and understood software or hardware, something new came along. It created a great deal of frustration and the need for quick adaptation. Nowadays, teachers don’t even make copies. Chromebooks allow students to turn everything in digitally, which has been a wonderful thing for the rain forests.

Even though it seems that things change daily, what I have noticed is that my students really have been the same through all the years. Of course, there have been new and bigger distractions, but students need the same thing from teachers that they have always needed: Recognition, praise, trust, and a feeling of belonging.

Those simple things that teachers give every single day sometimes seem to get lost with all the technology and latest greatest learning methodology. I have heard it said that we are trying to prepare students for jobs that do not even exist yet. As students seek to find their place in a changing world, teachers need to model the skills they will need. Teachers need to demonstrate flexibility, resilience and adaptability. Students need to learn and practice these traits, yet still be reassured that they are accepted and respected for who they are. They need to be encouraged to become all that they can be. Times are turbulent now, to say the least.

Teachers hold a powerful role in molding the lives of the students they encounter. We must remember that these students have the same emotional needs as we did. This is one thing that never changes.

Learn more about Carolyn Slygh on her LifeChanger of the Year profile.