"New beginnings" mean change. Change creates new challenges and opportunities. A new school replaces an old dilapidated school building, or an old landmark school building is renovated. School boards, administrators, faculty, support staff, communities and, most important, students get a real uplift.

For many, new beginnings can be a difficult period of adjustment. The planning, design and construction process evolves over several years before a school building is ready for occupancy. New educational philosophies frequently require innovative design concepts that force people from their comfortable setting. Participatory planning sessions offer opportunities for staff to embrace new educational philosophies and innovative designs, but many still are reluctant.

A classic example occurred when one administration decided to create an "open classroom" without consulting teachers. The design was the dream of a planning committee, but once the building was ready for occupancy, none of them was involved in the school. Many staff members would not accept the change, and the open-styled classrooms remained self-contained because the folding partitions were not opened. Several years after opening the school, a new principal who had been part of the planning committee was hired, and teachers finally began using the building as designed.

Spencer Johnson's book Who Moved My Cheese? uses the cheese as a metaphor for what a person wants in life, such as a possession, relationship or career. Johnson illustrates several important ideas that can be applied to the world of education:

  • Change happens

    Recognize that change is always occurring, whether in the classroom, school, educational philosophies, curriculum or the occupants.

  • Anticipate change

    Stay positive and realize that change is happening not only to you, but also others, including the students in the classroom.

  • Monitor change

    Be aware that change is happening.

  • Adapt to change quickly

    The quicker you let go of the old, the sooner you can enjoy the new.

  • Change

    Accept the change as a new beginning.

  • Enjoy the change

    Too many people are too comfortable in their own setting and are not willing to enjoy change.

  • Be ready to quickly change again and again

    Remember, change is a constant. The change might be in the classroom; in the functional use of spaces; in the furniture, fixtures and equipment; or in the operations and maintenance of the facilities.

Are you ready for a "new beginning?" Change can be difficult and challenging, but we all need to open the door and welcome new beginnings with a positive approach.

James E. Rydeen, FAIA, is an architect/facility planning specialist and former president of Armstrong, Torseth, Skold & Rydeen, Inc. (ATS&R), Minneapolis. He can be reached at Jrydeen@atsr.com.