Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Family Forte: Cruising the Challenging Changes of Life

by: Topher Wiles

     Horrible.  Horrendous.  Heinous. Those were the words ripping through my head when the stuff of nightmares became reality.  No, it wasn’t a Freddy Krueger type of moment.  It was my first day of school, and I was late!  As a second year Algebra teacher at McGavock High School, I was rehired only 5 days before the school semester began (a result of my type of licensure), which meant I had little time to get my new room ready for my 150 new students.  I was teaching 5 preps that year (high school teachers cringe at hearing this thought), sponsoring a new club, and coaching a sport.  There was entirely too much on my to-do list before the first day of school.  Maybe that’s why I had been working in my classroom at 1am before the first day of school.  Maybe that’s why I overslept my 5am alarm! 
Despite my rough first day, I had a great
year teaching students in McGavock!
Even named Teacher of the Week
on 107.5 the River!

     Panic set in when my blurred vision found focus on the red digital display of my alarm clock.  My 1st period algebra class had begun 45 minutes ago!  Like a fall Tennessee tornado, I ripped through the morning routine, only allowing time for the bare essentials, calling my principal in the process.  He said, “Don’t worry Wiles, you weren’t the only one.”  My principal was full of forgiveness and flexibility as I arrived in time for my 2nd period Honors Algebra 2 students.  As it turns out, I certainly wasn’t the first who struggled through the transition back to school, and I won’t be the last.

     This year, I’ve already worked through multiple text messages, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings helping students and parents through the new school year changes.  From challenges of affording school supplies, to rising tensions in homes, to trouble understanding advanced math, the new school year brings many challenges with the changes. Through our church family, Ashley and I have been blessed with opportunities to counsel and care for several students this year, from kindergartners to college students, and they all agree on one thing:  change is challenging. 
By God’s grace, though, we can tackle those challenging changes with a joyful heart and the hopeful expectation that we can not only survive but even thrive through change.  Here are a few tips on how to prepare yourself and your students for the tough transitions of life. 

Credit: ShutterStock RoyaltyFree
Start Preparing Young for Change – According to Psychology Today, flexibility is a must-have skill to learn as we deal with change.  That’s right, I said flexibility is LEARNED.  Researchers state that we begin teaching the skill of flexibility right out of the womb.  In her article titled, “Our Thriving Children,” Dr. Tovah Klein says it this way:  Neuroscience and developmental research repeatedly show that the early years before age five are foundational for setting up optimal lifelong development. Facing transitions is a daily dilemma for young kids even as it presents the opportunity for lifelong skills to grow.”   We begin teaching our children flexibility by modeling it at home.  If we handle change with anxiety and stress, our kids likely will too.  Be aware of how you deal with life’s transitions in front of kids.

Credit: Health Magazine
Start Preparing Early for Change – Nothing is as anxiety-inducing as the sudden change from a normal 8am summer wakeup time to a 5am alarm clock.  Establishing routines early can help mitigate the misery of change.  When we began preparing our kids for the new school year, even though it was still summer, Ashley began enforcing earlier bedtimes and setting morning alarms, gradually changing those times to match school year needs. If you know change is coming, prepare early in your time management, finances, and routines.  Even as adults, this strategy is a valuable asset in our ability to be flexible.  Whether you are starting a new job or taking over the care of aging parents, begin new routines early with your time, money, and energy to make a terrific transition for life’s changes. 

Start Preparing Now for Change – Whether you’re reading this as a student, working adult, or aging retiree, there are a few things you can do now to help prepare for inevitable change.  

  • Allow more room in your schedule by planning in “relax” or “buffer” time.  Change adds stress to over-filled schedules; adding margin allows you to more easily absorb any extra time commitments needed. 
  • Start a savings account now to anticipate needed money later.  If your car is on its last leg and you know the next repair is going to cost more than the car is worth, begin saving now so that you aren’t put out having to walk or take the bus to work/school.  
  • Add things into your life that bring you peace, such as prayer, singing, Bible study, a walk in God’s nature, and church services.  When your thoughts and emotions are filled with peace, you’re better able to handle the stressful transitions in life. 

     It’s been over a decade since that horrible, horrendous, and heinous first day of school, and yet I still find thankfulness and joy when I think back to how my principal handled my mistakes in transition.  When I walked into the school on that first day, I was met with a smile, a handshake, and a heartwarming, “Welcome back!”  We would do well to remember that transition is tough.  Let’s strive to be flexible and forgiving with others through life’s challenging changes.  Let’s also be grateful for the One whose mercy never changes.   

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8

Students, we hope your new school year is blessed with joy and peace as you continue to grow. 

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email,, or through our website,