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Mar 29, 2013

Time to transition

By necessity, I have to switch to more of a clean-up mode, trying to finish the unfinished, to put in writing what I know. There are little skirmishes we need to finish fighting, and unresolved issues to put in a more manageable state. I am trying to avoid making any new commitments and come up with new ideas because other people will have to follow through on them.

People around me are changing their strategies, too. They now think – “Oh, I have to take on this responsibility,” and this simple thought makes planning a lot more pragmatic and realistic. A few minor projects will inevitably be abandoned, because I failed to get wider support for them. The majority of traditions and initiatives were put in place long before me, and will continue to go on. And many things we started together in the last three years will continue go on without me. Someone will take the lead; they already have.

My role is changing ever so slightly. I am asked more for advice and opinion rather than for approval and for commitment. This subtle shifting of gears is very encouraging. I think I wrote about this several times, but here it is again: Administrators have to deal with the future in a little more concrete and tangible way. We always think one to three years ahead, because organizational processes tend to be longer than in the everyday life. For example, the next NCATE visit comes in 2018, and we already have a shared folder for evidence, and are building a data depository to prepare for it. But the point is – I can actually now see this future without me; the sketchy outlines of events and routines, of faces and issues, without me there. I am helping to plan myself out of the picture. It is slightly weird, like an out-of-body experience, and yet somehow also very comforting.

One thing I learned for sure – longer transitions help. We all need a little time to wrap our heads around change, to get our imagination going, and to re-map the future if it changed. When I was leaving Colorado 3 years ago, we did not have much time. I just found my previous “Leaving” blog – it was on May 7, 2010. We had enough time for technical transitions, but not for the kind of imaginative ones. It was probably a little more disruptive there. Imagination is what makes communities possible. We imagine our common past – not very accurately, but convincingly. We also imagine our near future even though it would be difficult to articulate what that is. There is the unconscious imagination that prepares the background for the story of our lives to unfold. While change is inevitable and sometimes fast, having some time to reprogram our imagination is a good thing.

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