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Should You Stay or Should You Go? Part -II

Higher Ed July / Out of The Box August / August 17, 2018

-Dr. Patricia Pence-

Last school year I launched a radical career shift to teach at a state university. My tenure as a seasoned senior nurse educator at a community college had reached a plateau, leaving me wondering whether it was time for me to leave or stay. After evaluating the pros and cons of staying, I realized it was time to leave.

Have you considered whether you are a “leaver” or a “stayer”?

Starting a radical change can be an overpowering challenge. My job search led me on a roller coaster ride of emotions. I was anxious about the uncertainty of whether I would find a new job while excited and hopeful about a fresh opportunity. The up and down emotional response can impair decision-making and your ability to teach at your present position.

Despite being motivated to seek a new job, I was stressed and apprehensive about how this process would unfold. After mulling around whether to leave or stay, and fearing the reactions from others, I realized my reaction was a normal emotional response to change.

According to Dr. Britt Andreatta, an internationally recognized author, thought leader, and consultant on leadership for organizations, our brains are wired to resist change. In her book, “Wired to resist: The brain science of why change fails and a new model for driving success”, she illustrates and explains the neuroscience of resistance to change. Her book is based on academic and organizational studies and interviews with leaders from various organizations.

Dr. Andreatta wrote, we all experience change in our lives. Change is constant, unsettling, disruptive, and difficult. Our brain is “wired” to detect any change, such as when we change jobs and adjust to a new workplace. Change stimulates a full range of emotions, but the key emotions highlighted in Dr. Andreatta’s change model are fear, fatigue, and failure.

Fear

It was no surprise that my response to change during my job search was fear. Change activates the amygdala, our survival or “fight-or-flight” control center. Any change will start a series of chemical responses, mainly the release of hormones, adrenalin and cortisol, to help increase our chance of survival. Have you ever noticed your heart rate racing at the thought of a major change in your life? An increased heart rate is one response by the amygdala. Dr. Andreatta describes the amygdala as “freaking out” during change.

My amygdala was “freaking out” about:

  • Taking a risk to start at a university
  • How other faculty members and administrators would react to leaving
  • Whether the selection committee at a university would embrace flipped learning
  • Whether I would be “ready” to enter a new tenure-track university faculty position

Fatigue

Dr. Andreatta says our brain responds to the amount of change or “change load”. The more change taking place in your life, the more that change may lead to physical and mental fatigue. Change fatigue may manifest with symptoms of disengagement, exhaustion, absenteeism, confusion, conflict, and cynicism.

In retrospect, between my home and work life, my change load last year had “maxed out”. Besides applying and interviewing for a new position, I was helping my mother, assisting a teacher flip a course, and completing the flipped certification and international faculty member search. I felt de-energized, had difficulty making decisions, and had no time for exercise.

Failure

Change and taking a risk, such as leaving a job for another, increases the chance for failure. Change stimulates the habenula, an area deep within the center of our brain, to release or suppress the chemicals, dopamine and serotonin. The habenula releases these chemicals when we are successful and rewards us with “feel good” emotions. When we fail, the habenula suppresses the flow of these chemicals, setting up “feel bad” emotions and impairing our decision-making. Dr. Andreatta equates the habenula’s message during change as, “I can’t mess up”.

Potential failures and opportunities to “mess up” with a future job change preoccupied my mind:

  • What if I do not get an interview?
  • If I get an interview, what if the interview does not go well?
  • What if the selection committee members are not on board with flipped learning?
  • If I get a new job, what if this change doesn’t work out?
  • What if I fail to meet the expectations of tenure at a university?

To turn this topsy-turvy roller coaster ride of emotions into a positive experience, I tried these six strategies to manage my emotions. You might consider these strategies when seeking a new job or dealing with any change.

  1. Assess your change load. If you are juggling a lot of change, are there things you could do that would lessen your stress during this change? I learned to enlist the help of other siblings to help with my mother’s care. While helping the teacher flip a class, I had to let go of my perfectionism. Trying to have everything in my life run perfectly was an unrealistic goal. You might also assess whether this is the right time to change your job if your change load is high.
  2. Remember that your students are your main priority. Steer your attention to your current students who are counting on you for a great flipped learning experience. Stay focused on building relationships to reach every student during every day of class.
  3. 3.Embrace the challenge. Finding a better job suited to flipped learning will lead to your own personal and professional growth. While my current job was a “good” position, I wanted a job that would help me move beyond “good”. It was time to look forward to future possibilities.
  4. 4. Take time for self-care. Andreatta stressed the importance of good nutrition, sufficient sleep, and exercise during change. Schedule time for a walk, workout, or whatever you do to take care of you. For me, even a brief walk helps release “feel good” endorphins to clear my mind during stress. That is often the time I brainstorm, problem-solve, and engage in creative thoughts.
  5. Practice mindfulness. Dr. Andreatta found research indicates practicing mindfulness helps us adapt to change. Ways to practice mindfulness are meditation, yoga, being present, and gratitude. During my change journey, I tried to end each day with expressing gratitude for at least 5 things in my life. Intentional gratitude improves your attention, determination, and enthusiasm, while decreasing feelings of anxiety, depression, or physical symptoms associated with change.
  6.   Seek a support group. Why not seek support from other flipped learning practitioners who can advise and encourage you during a change? The Flipped Learning Global Initiative (FLGI) has support group forums to reach out to other liked-minded flipped learning teachers. Staying active in FLGI solidified the purpose of my search.

Be prepared to feel mixed emotions as you set out to find a new job. FLGI is here to support you during your job search and transition. Share your experience in a support group. You might help someone else successfully navigate a job transition!

References:

Andreatta, B. (2017). Wired to resist: The brain science of why change fails and a new model for driving success. Santa Barbara, CA: 7th Mind Publishing.

Leone, T. (2016). How to manage your nerves during transitions. TEACHFORAMERICA. Retrieved at https://www.teachforamerica.org  on June 16, 2018.






Patricia Pence
Patricia Pence
Dr. Patricia Pence has been a professor in the nursing program at Illinois Valley Community College, Illinois, USA, for over 17 years. She will begin a new faculty position at Illinois State University this fall. Her clinical nursing practice spanned over 28 years as a staff nurse in constant care, medical-surgical, home health, extended-care, and as a director of nursing in long-term care facilities. Dr. Pence transformed her nursing classes from lecture to flipped learning in 2013. Since then Dr. Pence published her flipped learning strategies in the Teaching and Learning in Nursing journal. She was a guest blogger and coauthor of a textbook for nurse educators that was recently published, TEACH students to THINK like a nurse: Transformational strategies that will PREPARE students for PRACTICE. She enjoys sharing her flipped learning strategies with other nurse educators at conferences across the US.




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