Building Adaptability as An Educator - Guest Blog
by Orisbeida Cepeda
Our focus word for the month of November is ADAPT. When we think about the ability to adapt, we think about whether we’re in a place of flexibility, able to “go with the flow,” or if we’re stuck in a place of resistance. This ability to go with the flow is directly related to whether or not we are in a calm, connected state. If/when things don’t go as planned, we need to have plenty of coping chemicals in our cups in order to handle those changes without falling apart. We asked one of our experienced practicing Get Ready teachers to reflect on this idea of becoming adaptable, and she’s here to share these thoughts with us.
As a special educator being adaptable has slowly become second nature. Though now I am confident saying that I can adapt to changes, that was not always the case. Being adaptable to changes is a skill that is not taught in a college course or textbook. It is also a skill that isn’t learned from a couple of hours of experience in the classroom, this skill takes years! At least for me it did.
For me being adaptable or adaptability means “going with the flow”. We all like to plan out our days, weeks or years. Many of us have four year plans or monthly goals. Then there are some of us that plan their lives to every hour, that person was me! I would plan every hour of the day with a new task I would have to tackle. My life was run by this agenda and these imaginary deadlines I would give myself. If I couldn’t tackle a task or was late I would stress and have panic attacks. Though I did make time for the gym, I would write that in my agenda; so it also felt like a task instead of a time to relax my mind or a form of self-care. My life was on constant go with no time to reflect or even breathe. It was difficult for me to accept changes so I definitely wasn’t able to adapt to changes.
I began to notice that things might not always work out as I had planned and noticed how I was reacting to these changes and it wasn’t good! I would internally freak out and wouldn’t or even couldn’t let go of the fact that I had to adjust! I couldn’t accept that something didn’t go the way I had planned it. I would obsess over the change instead of how to handle it by being proactive.
One summer day, my principal approached me and asked if I would be interested in implementing a yoga based program in my class and become the facilitator for my school’s main site, this program was called Get Ready to Learn. My first thoughts were “Yes! great more work” with sarcasm. My principal believed I had a great attitude for the program and my students would benefit from it, as he stated. “Was it because I was active?” I questioned myself. Everyone in the school knew I enjoyed running and going to the gym. Yoga was the complete opposite of the high intensity workouts I was used to.
I remember going to my first Get Ready to Learn professional development and stressing about being on time. Time is the number one factor that causes anxiety. When I stepped into the library everyone was calm, no one was rushing to begin. I was in shock but still couldn’t calm my mind about it not starting at the time I believed it should have started. After my first day I walked out a new person mentally. I was open but wasn’t sure what I was open to just yet. That first year implementing Get Ready to Learn in my class and being the facilitator I can say that I saw growth in myself professionally and personally. I took on more tasks at work, led more programs, juggled more responsibility. I believed all this was because I was a seasoned teacher, 6 years in. But I was wrong. It was because I had the ability to adapt to changes in a positive way with daily practice I learned from Get Ready to Learn. I was able to manage my personal and professional life without causing myself to cave into my anxiety.
One key element of Get Ready to Learn that stands out to me, is how to remain in the present moment. This might sound cliché but it actually not only has helped me enjoy life, ease my anxiety but also to flow through changes like water.
One moment in particular that I can recall where Get Ready to Learn has helped me was when the deputy superintendent came to visit my school. I was informed by my administrator that she would be visiting my room and I went straight into planning mode. This can be nerve-racking to any seasoned teacher. You feel the weight of the entire school on your shoulder to have everything turn out perfect, which is so far from the reality of teaching. I created what I believed to be my best lesson, with attention to making it an active lesson so that she may see my diversity and ability to create fun lessons. I wanted to show all my skills in one lesson, I was going BIG, to say the least.
The day of the visit I was excited and ready! My lesson was a continuation from the week’s work, as she was visiting on a Friday. I was most excited for my English language lesson, since reading is my strongest subject, I believe. I was told the deputy superintendent would be at my room second period, 9am. Second period came and went with no visit or indication of when she would show up. The day went on and I assumed “Hey maybe she skipped my room and luck was on my side. But all of a sudden I see my administrators at my door sixth period, four periods after the original time! I felt every sweat drop accumulate on my forehead. I wasn’t teaching what I believed to be my strongest subject I was teaching Science, YUCK! I started to throw myself off mentally! It was also an off day for one of my students. He was talking back and being slightly more aggressive than usual. I took a few deep breaths and thought about what he enjoys the most; hands on activities. I adapted my science lesson and allowed this particular student to walk around to the science area to identify the temperature of different cups and compare. This kept this student engaged and happy while I was able to manage and continue the my lesson with ease. Instead of focusing on everything that was going wrong and how nothing was going as I had expected it to, I was able to adapt to the changes and deliver a great lesson. I was able to stay present instead of obsessing on factors I couldn’t control. I focused on the task at hand was able to present a great science lesson with modifications for all of my students’ needs whether they be academic or emotional needs.
Today I am confident that I am able to handle an event that doesn’t go exactly how I may have planned it or imagined how it may go. I am able to roll with the punches (changes) that come when working as a Special Needs Educator- With the tools from Get Ready to Learn I have been able to ADAPT!!