Changes will always happen
by Helen Bryant (revised, originally published in 2013)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider change as something positive rather than damaging.
Preparation and materials
- If possible, wear something unusual so that it appears unexpected to the students. Alternatively, change something in the room so that it is not what the students would expect. This could involve rearranging the seating, playing unusual music and so on.
- Have available one of the many versions of the song ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ by The Byrds and the means to play it at the end of the assembly. An audio version is available at: https://youtu.be/xVOJla2vYx8 (3.49 minutes long)
- Ask the students, ‘Did any of you notice anything different as you arrived here this morning? Maybe something in connection with me, or the music playing? Did you like it? Why not?’
Help to guide students to the answer, ‘It’s different. You’ve changed things.’
- It’s interesting because, although people often say that they don’t like something, if you change it, they will soon complain.
That’s because people generally don’t like change. Change can be perceived as something frightening, and can be greeted with hostility and fear. Changes are never far away, however. We come across them all the time. For example, Year 11 were once Year 10 and Year 13 were once Year 12, but they will be thinking about other huge changes that will be happening soon. They may be looking for somewhere to continue their studies or thinking about applying for an apprenticeship or a job.
Of course, there have been or will be some staff changes too, and for all of us, 2020 was a year of multiple changes due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Change can also be of a personal nature, whether it’s breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, relocating to another area, having a best friend move away or experiencing the death of a relative. Perhaps something that once meant a great deal to you has not turned out the way that you hoped.
Such changes aren’t easy, but they often provide an opportunity to grow and test our mettle. In order to change, we have to go through the process of becoming different. We can assume that the grass is greener on the other side.
- Without change, things would always stay the same. In the children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the caterpillar eats and eats and eats, transitioning from a small caterpillar to a big, fat caterpillar and eventually, after being in his chrysalis, becoming a beautiful butterfly. Without the metamorphosis that takes place in the chrysalis, the caterpillar would never have fulfilled his potential. Equally, without change in the world and within ourselves, we will never completely fulfil our potential.
- The problem that accompanies change is the fear of the unknown. Often, people think, ‘But we’ve always done it like that,’ or ‘This new way won’t work.’ If you look at human history, if we hadn’t embraced change or tried to do things differently, we would probably still be living in caves. Where would advances in medical technology come from if no one ever took a chance? In fact, without change, there would be no human race. Without change, we would not have amazing natural sights either, such as the Grand Canyon.
- So, change is not necessarily a bad thing. By embracing it and regarding it as something transformative and exciting, we will always be able to develop as people and as a species in the world around us. As Gilda Radner said, ‘Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.’
- Imagine that you have never been to the seaside before. You spend all day building an enormous sandcastle. You have towers with turrets and a moat going round the whole thing, and you’ve had the best time building it. The next day, on the way back to the beach, you’re really excited about adding to it. However, when you get there, the sandcastle, complete with its turrets, towers and moat, has gone. You simply don’t understand how something so solid, so big, could just disappear.
Now, we all know that the tide will have come in overnight and slowly washed the sandcastle away. The sea comes, reclaims its space and transforms the landscape from one in which your sandcastle stood to a flat bed of sand again, so you will have to start over. You could see this as a defeat and mourn the loss of your brilliant sandcastle, or you could see it as an opportunity to rebuild it, making it even bigger and better than the day before. Maybe this time, you could even add a bridge over your moat!
Time for reflection
Think about the changes that have taken place over the past year. Are you going to be sad for what is in the past or are you going to embrace what is ahead of you? Let’s listen to that quotation again: ‘Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.’
Sometimes, there are things that we can’t change. We can’t make people like us and we can’t change someone and make them be the way we want them to be. It is for us to see where we can change things. If change is coming to us, it is about how we deal with that change that will make the outcome either positive or negative.
So, let’s embrace change, let’s not see it as something to be frightened of. Let’s think about what we can do with changes that come our way and how we can make things bigger and better.
The following prayer is known as the Serenity Prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr’s wise words about how to approach change.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ by The Byrds, available at: https://youtu.be/xVOJla2vYx8 (3.49 minutes long)