Turn and Face the Change – ch..ch..ch..Changes!

Sunset over the Yukon in Kaltag. Each end of the a day means there is the promise of tomorrow. Photo Credit: J.Westrich

Change is hard. It is also the one true constant in life. Although we often wish to hang onto the present, the comfortable, the expected, the known –  it is inevitable that time will pass, and we will need to adapt to new seasons, people, places, and situations. Change can be monumental, like adjusting to a new school or new baby. Change can be small, but uncomfortable, like a new pair of sneakers. Change happens. I am facing change as I conclude my year as the 2023 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail. It feels uncomfortable to let go of something that I integrated into my life; I’m finally used to monthly post deadlines and have found my comfort zone when presenting in public. 

The warm welcome back from Alaska made the change smoother. Photo Credit: J.Westrich

Our students are also facing change as the school year comes to a close. The expectation is that everyone is excited about summer vacation; we are burned out and worn down, the finish line is in sight!  Except, not everyone feels this way. For many students the idea of leaving their current classroom, their beloved teacher, and supportive friends is scary. Endless days of sunshine – without a schedule, or at an unfamiliar day camp – seem more terrifying than terrific. The worry and anxiety over change is real. Students can struggle with these feelings, especially if they are both excited and apprehensive – that’s A LOT of emotion swirling around! 

It is important to acknowledge the real emotional toll change causes when we come to the end of the year. The tears at senior banquets, awards ceremonies, and graduation are for a reason – it is hard to let go. How can we support students who struggle this time of year with the inevitable, yet frightening, prospect of change?

“Don’t cry because it’s over; Smile because it happened.”

This quote (which some attribute to Dr. Seuss, others Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but is most likely from German poet Ludwig Jacobowski) is one I use to reflect and process worry and sorrow over the end of things. What if, one year ago, I had been so afraid of change that I stayed in the exact same place and didn’t move forward? I would have found comfort in familiarity and fewer misgivings about the unknown future. What did this past year bring me that I wouldn’t have learned if I stayed “stuck?” These questions can foster class discussion or final writing prompts to help students process the end of the school year. Students can create individual lists of the top 5 new things they learned this year – fostering a shift in their perspective about change and looking forward to the 5 things they’ll have to add to the list at the end of next year. Here are 5 things that came my way this past year when I chose to embrace change rather than fight against the unstoppable tide of time.

Sharing Iditarod moments with my kid – like dog handling at the ReStart – made her transition to college easier for me. Photo Credit: J.Westrich


  1. My middle child left for college this year which was a huge change! I filled her absence with Iditarod – which happens to be one of her passions. Although she was far away, spending my time as the Iditarod Teacher on the Trail helped me to feel connected to her.
  2. When meeting Iditarod mushers I discovered that, although I think they’re famous superstars, they’re mostly just passionate athletes who are thrilled to talk with someone who loves their sport as much as they do.
  3. Forcing yourself to do hard things, uncomfortable things, can lead to self-discovery. I really, really, REALLY, don’t like being on camera – but the more I did it, the easier it became and it turns out I’m not terrible at it (not switching careers or anything, but I definitely don’t dread this as much as I used to.)
  4. My morning cup of coffee is a life essential and, although I do have a specific way I like it prepared, I discovered that I can adapt and change to make sure I still get caffeine.
  5. One of the very frustrating, yet inevitable aspects of time is that we change as we get older. I had a couple relatively small hiccups this year that I worried would slow me down during my Alaska adventure. I discovered that listening to my body, following instructions around rehabilitation, and being consistent and patient leads to recovery – and that I don’t need to cave to aging, just be kinder to myself and respectful of my limitations.

    Eric Kelly is a gracious and grateful musher! He’s very vocal in his thanks for the fans who help make Iditarod possible. Photo Credit: J.Westrich

    I may have had a little too much coffee at Bering Tea & Coffee in Nome! Photo Credit: J.Westrich

    Developing a comfort level talking to the camera! Photo Credit: J.Westrich

While this exercise isn’t perfect, it is one way to look at change as potential rather than problematic. What will happen next? We don’t know. When we reflect on the good that  happened because we allowed change to occur we might be able to see some promise in the change we are dealing with now.  

Library Learnings: The book Love Is by Diane Adams is a beautiful story about how change is inevitable, but when we appreciate special moments our lives are filled with joy and love.