Be firm on principle but flexible on method. -Zig Ziglar
Watching the Olympics the past 2 weeks, I’ve marveled at the flexibility of the athletes, particularly the gymnasts. They can put their bodies into positions that seem almost super-human to me. I can’t even bend over and touch my toes. Their abilities come from intentional practice, training and coaching.
Flexibility isn’t restricted to range of movement with our joints and muscles. It is also about being willing or disposed to yield. I’ve been teaching for, well, forever it seems. It is super easy for me to reach into my file cabinet, pull out a unit of study and go on autopilot…teaching the same lessons, using the same examples, smoothing out the same, wrinkled and faded artifacts and expecting the same answers from my students. It is literally, a no-brainer.
The longer we teach, the easier it is to develop tunnel vision. A few years ago, I found myself going through the motions of teaching. I wasn’t happy but couldn’t figure out why. My rigidity was more like rigor mortis. When I started using the iPads, I found a new spark of excitement that energized my teaching. I found the joy of student-led learning and being open to the moment. When I became present, I discovered how my students became more engaged. I realized that being on autopilot is a death knell to the classroom.
To be sure, iPads required a new flexibility for me. I still had an overarching goal but I learned to be not just accepting of student-led learning, I became expectant of it. The beauty of this shift in my teaching was that my students exceeded even my usually high expectations. My mantra to teachers in other grades who seem reluctant to incorporate iPads is “If my 5 year old kindergartners can do it, surely your students can also.” Just like those Olympic athletes, our own teaching flexibility requires intentional practice, training and coaching. It starts from the top in administration. When administrators create a culture of flexibility, team-work, and open-mindedness, then teachers feel empowered to try new things, reach beyond what they think is possible, and “Go for Gold!”
Are there parts of your life/career that are on autopilot? Try to find one thing that you can change and allow yourself to feel energized by it. Your enthusiasm will be contagious!
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