Recently, I have been thinking quite a bit about the characteristic of flexibility. My favorite definition comes from training I had before traveling overseas in college:
"A flexible person is capable and active in adapting to new situations."
As I think about teaching students and preparing them for a world that is ever-changing, growing the value of flexibility in them seems to be a pretty good idea!
My story: This week has been a great example of flexibility in my job. Due to some maintenance issues, I have not been able to be in my office all week. This means that I've been working from home or from conference rooms at various schools, doing meetings via Google Hangout, and communicating via email/text rather than in person. I'll be honest, while it's a nice change of pace in some ways, it's also been a little unsettling - I am so used to my routine! Along with all of this, some different topics have bubbled up in conversations, so our carefully planned agendas for meetings have been thrown out the window. None of this is bad - it's just life! But it has given me ample opportunity to exercise my own flexibility.
Now, with students: When I was teaching, as we prepared for concerts, I wanted to throw students into situations where they were a little uncomfortable. After all, we couldn't replicate the environment of being under the lights with hundreds of people staring at you, but I knew it would not go well if we were only used to our classroom in ideal conditions. We practiced in different places where everything sounded different, changed our seating, and played "previews" for smaller audiences. All of this was aimed at growing flexibility so whatever came in the concert would not throw them off too much.
Beyond concert preparation, there were other ways to teach flexibility in the classroom. Any interruption, alternate schedule, room change, or lesson that didn't go well became an opportunity to model my response in less-than-ideal circumstances and set expectations for my students to do the same. And they picked up on it! By the time I had students as 8th graders, I was confident that our group could be put into almost any situation and respond well (and that was proven time and time again). Bonus: in the moments where MY frustration got the best of me, my students modeled flexibility and reminded me to take a deep breath and move on.
And then there were the moments where I intentionally built my classroom & lesson plans to force students to be flexible. This is such a real life skill, we can't afford to miss out on it! How are we teaching our students to adapt? To go beyond making a change, but to actively engage in the process and actually improve their work as the result of a new situation? If we don't give students opportunities and safe spaces to practice flexibility, they are missing out. Routines and structures are important, to be sure. But nothing ever stays perfectly routine for long - we have to be prepared for change.