A Message from Dr. Starr

We cannot be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you do not have something better.
      — C. JoyBell C., Author
by Deborah R. Starr, Ed.D., Head of School

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Temple Beth Am and Temple Beth Am Day School are currently undergoing a number of major changes. There is the Beyond the Curve Campaign, which will revision and restructure our campus. After 15 years, there has been a change in the Executive Director position, and after 10 years, a new Head of School will be coming on board. There are many other changes occurring, because as Heraclitus, the Greek Philosopher stated: The only constant is change; but I will limit this narrative to these three.

Our temple directors, day school directors and clergy meet together every Wednesday. Once a month, these meetings are specifically designed around learning together and usually revolve around professional development or text study. As a learning community, we, too, continue to develop our knowledge and craft. Currently, a series of 3 workshops are on the topic of Change and Transition. We recognized that we wanted to learn more about what is known about this process and how we can navigate better through these changes, not just for ourselves, but for our constituents and stakeholders as well.

As the leader of these workshops, I did some research and basically relied on these three books: Leading in a Culture of Change by Michael Fullan; Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William Bridges with Susan Bridges; and Embrace the Chaos by Bob Miglani. I want to share with you a summary of our learning.

Although we do not fit the “typical” situations of real transition (which usually involves a disruptive change of product or Mission — due to dissatisfaction with a current state), we are experiencing organizational change due to being enticed by a new, compelling vision of a future campus (Beyond the Curve). Additionally, retirements led to the two displacements of key leaders at the institution – again, not a dissatisfaction of current state. So, here we are, with recognizing that organizational change is clearly warranted, but alas, facing the known fact that resistance to change is part of human nature. Our task now, as the directors and clergy of Temple Beth Am and Temple Beth Am Day School, is to be able to understand it fully in order to overcome it and create buy in and support from all constituents.

A Transition Model was designed by William Bridges, which has 3 clearly delineated change phases. What I love about his model is that he makes it analogous to the Exodus story. For transition and change to be successful, the organization must successfully pass through: (1) Ending, Losing, Letting Go; (2) The Neutral Zone; and (3) The New Beginning. Just like in Exodus: the Hebrews had to END their life and slavery in Egypt (by clearly leaving it behind); they had to wander in the desert (the NEUTRAL ZONE) in order to transform and learn new ways and mindsets; and (3) they needed to enter the Promised Land — to have a real, NEW BEGINNING. Is this not so relatable to what has to happen?

• Ending, Losing, Letting Go — Letting go of the old ways and the old identity people had. This first phase of transition is an ending and the time when you need to help people to deal with their losses.

• We reflected on the importance of having real endings. What they have and should look like here — and what are the many ways people will exhibit their loss and specific ways to help them (and us).

• The Neutral Zone — Going through an in-between time when the old is gone, but the new is not fully operational. This is a psychological no-man’s-land between the old reality and the new one. We call this time the neutral zone: it is when the critical psychological realignments and re-patterning takes place.

• We reflected on the tensions and anxieties of this zone. What to beware of and what to manage. We need to recognize this is a time of opportunity and creativity. It is a time to strengthen intragroup relations. How can we move successfully through this zone?

• The New Beginning — Coming out of the transition and making a new beginning. This is when people develop the new identity, experience the new energy, and discover the new sense of purpose that makes the change begin to work.

• We identified what to be aware of in this zone. There might be ambivalence, fear of failure, and loss of self-esteem. New Beginnings cannot be forced, but they can be encouraged, supported, and reinforced. We learned tools to implement and factors to avoid accomplishing this. We need purpose, plan, and a tremendous amount of clear and transparent communication.

As the clergy, directors, and leaders of Temple Beth Am and Temple Beth Am Day School, we will be better prepared to recognize, and expect, that we and our constituents will demonstrate a multitude of emotions and attitudes as we navigate leaving Egypt, wandering the desert and entering the Promised Land.

Tell your friends about us. We have room to grow!