Finding Opportunity in the New 'Normal'

This past year has been a tough one for many, both personally and professionally. Jobs have been lost, programs have been cut, construction projects have been put on hold, and funding for education has been iffy at best. Some are waiting for the economy to improve and funding for education to return to former levels. Others believe that we have experienced a necessary correction and that returning to business-as-usual is not in our best interest. I believe that the answer lies somewhere in between. Economists say that the recession is over, but this time recovery is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. We must deal honestly with our current circumstances, revise our past positions, and develop a strategy that will help us reach new goals. If we do, we cannot only survive — but thrive.

Those who will be successful are those who have stopped mourning for the old economy, stopped poking it with a sharp stick to see if it moves, and started thinking about what can be done with what we now have. It is much like working through the five stages of grief — denial, then anger, then bargaining, followed by depression and, finally, acceptance. We are way past the denial and anger stages, but many are still stuck in the bargaining stage, thinking if they work longer and harder it will fix everything. The bargaining phase can only last so long before leaders stop leading and people begin to feel unappreciated and burned out. We need to accept that we are living in a new economy with a new normal. My question for those who mourn the “good old days”… were they really that good?

I am a firm believer that every crisis can provide an opportunity for change and growth. While it is human nature to find comfort in the status quo, it is often a crisis that provides us a much needed wake-up call and gives us a second chance — an opportunity to do things better, an opportunity to make things right. We are lucky to be working in education, an industry that is not in it for the money, but instead for the kids. As this year ends and a new one begins, let’s not spend our energy mourning what we think we lost, but instead focus on creating a brighter future for students — here and now.
Have a happy holiday season!