Through the Eyes of an Educator: Transitions and Turning Points

by Stacey Ebert / Jun 06, 2022 /
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In the northern hemisphere, it’s beginning to feel a lot like summer. While the official solstice is still a few weeks away, the unofficial start has already occurred. University students have left their campuses, many school districts are either done or into the final wind downs, summer camp packing is fully underway, and beaches will soon have far more humans than seagulls. 

While many of us use both natural and man-made times like the seasonal shift or the return of pitchers and catchers to mark particular points in a year or a lifetime, how do we mark, find, or deal with epic turning points in our lives?

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Transitions and Turning Points

Perhaps the child doesn’t remember their first day of school, but the person who brings them there sure does. Perhaps the first camp counselor to hold that new child’s hand doesn’t remember, but the child can clearly recapture the feelings of ease that gesture brought. And, perhaps the friends know about your travel excursions, but you’re the one who can fully sense the shift that transpired the moment your independence exploded in your first solo excursion. 

Sometimes we create our own turning points and other times they happen to us. Sometimes they’re utterly joyful ones, and others take flight due to traumatic experiences or uncomfortable growth. 

We may not realize the day we get our butterfly wings and finally crawl out of our caterpillar shells, but somehow, with some turning points, the transformation occurs

My favorite teenager recently finished her first year of university. She told me she absolutely loves it there and will miss her friends from school so much this summer, as she’ll be in a different state far away from many of them. I’ve been privileged to be a part of this 18-year-old’s life since it began—and whether she knows it or not, I am sure that this year squarely falls into the turning point category of her young life. Amidst all the typical shifts that occur in the high school to college transition, like many others, hers took place amidst lockdowns, quarantine protocols, all sorts of new technology, and for her, was really the first time she was truly away from home. 

In recent years, social emotional learning has made its way into school lessons. Discussions on empathy, growth, discomfort, active listening, and kindness manifest themselves in many ways throughout the educational spectrum during the developmental periods both in and outside of the classroom. Today, coping with change, learning tools for our own personal tool kits, and learning to sit with uncomfortable feelings are actually discussed in seminars, classrooms, youth groups, summer camps, and homes around the globe. It’s these conversations that can help with the big feelings of transitions and turning points. While sometimes these turning points and transitions are filled with delight, they often come with a bit of other feelings, too. 

During my first year as a class advisor, one of my senior class officers felt exactly that. She adored her time in high school, was active in many clubs and sports, and held leadership positions across the school spectrum. She was loved by her teachers and administrators, and excited to head off to university. She spoke of the dichotomy of feeling ready for that next step yet wondering about how she’d feel, as she was known and loved in her school and would be stepping onto a campus as an unknown entity. In that present moment, it was hard to remember that four years prior, she had been that unknown entity and grew to establish herself in all she excelled. Perhaps subconsciously she understood that she could do it all again, but the transition and turning point was a notable occurrence.

Perhaps we can all look back on our lives and reflect on those turning points or transitions. Life within the school setting, before it, outside of it and well after—each has its own transformation moment attached. Transitioning careers, changing direction, or growing into the person you’re meant to be in the present...they all come equipped with bumps, bruises, tears, struggles, joys, direction, goals, smiles, successes, and triumphs. It’s up to each and every one of us to notice the process (and it is a process), find our cheerleaders, and remember that the mountain once in front of us will one day be behind. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Transitions and Turning Points

Whether you’re dealing with the repercussions of all the pandemic transitions, the ones that make the weight of the world feel heavy on your heart, an exciting upcoming challenge, a new school, or working on yourself amidst it all, as we find ourselves in each phase of a transition or turning point, there are stages we all go through. We talk about the caterpillar and we talk about the butterfly, but rarely are the steps and time in the middle spoken about. It’s often messy, hard, filled with struggle mixed with a bit of moments of ease, and eventual growth that sometimes makes you feel like you want to go right back to the comfort of the before stage...but skip a step in the process, and we wouldn’t have those bright, beautiful butterflies that spread their wings to take flight. 

Wherever you are in that transformative process, know you’ve got cheerleaders right there beside you. Whether you can see us or not, we’re always there, inspired by you, holding your hand, and believing in your every step.

Reflecting on life’s turning points

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Transitions and Turning Points

Remember you’ve been here before

It doesn’t feel like it, but you’ve been here before. The first day of kindergarten was scary, but you came home with stories galore and ready for your next day’s adventure. The first day of middle school was tortuous, but by the time eighth grade came along, you leapt off the bus knowing your clubs, sports, teachers, and the journey before you. As high school graduation approaches, those big feelings are back. What feels like the culmination of your educational story is a new beginning. You’ve been here before: the twinges of fear coupled with the excitement and nerves of the new unknown. Perhaps you didn’t believe you could do it, but you did and you excelled at it. Remember that! You can excel at this, too. It won’t all be easy, but the smiles will arrive. You’ve got this!

Feel the feelings

Transitions, change, turning points—they’re filled with emotion, waves of big feelings that take on a life of their own sometimes. They make us laugh, cry, scream, giggle, smile, remember, and above all, feel. These feelings are normal...really. We may not all talk about having them, but they’re there. They manifest in different ways for every different person, but they’re there. Feel them. Journal about them. Talk about them. Sit with them. Allow them in and when it’s time, allow them to leave. They’re a part of the journey and they make you, well, you.  

Take the steps

Whether it’s dealing with grief, love, loss, or change, there are steps. Much of the time, we wish that we could jump over them, like a kid on the hopscotch board. While we may want that to be the case, and sometimes think we’ll be fine, that we can just jump over one or two and get on with it, it’s not how it works. Those who have been through any version of the step process will tell you the same thing. It doesn’t look the same for everyone—some show the messy, and others play it close to the vest. Regardless of whether you choose to take them loudly or quietly, take them...one foot in front of the other. At some point, you’ll surpass them all; the culmination doesn’t announce itself with a version of pomp and circumstance or a thousand caps aloft in the air, but you’ll know. The you that finishes the steps is a different version than the person who began the journey.

Reframe the story

There’s been a time in life when you had to learn procedure. Whether it was tying shoes, crafting a sandwich, learning to fence, or how to master a new art technique, there were steps, trials, triumphs, and lessons learned along the way. Consider the lessons learned from any other transitional time in life. How can they apply to this present one? What do you remember from the past that fits today? Growth is messy, change is a constant, and transformation is a process. What’s the story you tell yourself? Discussing only the struggle isn’t the same without the lesson. The struggle is necessary for the lesson to appear. Look to the lessons! These will reframe the story, your story—the one of possibility, new dreams, and a whole new journey ahead.

Find your cheer squad

The saying ‘when the student is ready the teacher appears’ has stood the test of time for a million reasons. Perhaps we have to be open and curious for the lesson to truly listen to our teachers. It’s the same with a cheer squad. There are times in life when we need those people—the ones who feel like sunlight, the ones who believe in us fully, who are there to support us at every step, and remind us who we truly are. They journey with us. It’s not always those closest to you. They don’t always come from the most expected of locations, and some stay for a while or a lifetime. No matter how long they’re there for, their impact is felt beyond measure. Build your team. Take their strength to heart. It will lift you whenever you need. Keep your eyes peeled, your cheerleaders are out there. We’ve got you. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Transitions and Turning Points

 

Please click the photo below for a collection of my Through the Eyes of an Educator columns:

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Compendium

Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.

Check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.