The complexity and unpredictability of our lives today might have seemed unimaginable as recently as a year ago. Yet, the circumstances we face do not have to control or define us. We do not have to minimize or ignore the reality we face to find new opportunities, discover new insights, and build new skills and capabilities.
At first, such a statement may feel disconnected to reality. Still, it taps an important truth. Despite the challenges we face, we still have choices regarding how we interpret our experiences, decide how we will respond, and what we will learn from the experience. We can default to disappointment, defeatism, and self-pity, or we can resist knee-jerk reactions and commit to finding opportunities, developing new strategies, and strengthening our resilience.
The choice is ours. We only forfeit our ability to choose when we give in and accept our circumstances as unalterable reality. We can choose to see potential and possibilities or succumb to disappointment and despair.
We can do better than “making do” or getting by. We can commit to creating energy and momentum, focus, and purpose for ourselves. We can ask ourselves, “How can I take this experience or challenge and use it to learn, improve, adapt, imagine, or create?” “How can I make this into something positive and productive?”
Consider some common scenarios and how adopting an attitude of opportunity might make a difference:
- Rather than bemoaning that I cannot control the behavior of students remotely, how can I develop relationships and influence that make dependence on compliance, threats, and consequences less necessary?
- Rather than complaining about how students are overly dependent on my instructions and direction, how might I nurture in them the skills and habits necessary to become more independent learners?
- Rather than pressing to cover academic content at a pace that students cannot manage, how might I focus on depth of understanding and building skills that give students the ability to catch up on less crucial content later?
- Rather than struggling to find ways to entertain and engage students, how can I tap their internal drive, interests, curiosity, and values to build learning momentum instead of being completely dependent on my energy and drive?
- Rather than struggling to conjure and present artificial learning challenges and experiences, how can I tap natural and authentic opportunities to stimulate learning and build understanding in the lives, homes, and surroundings of students?
- Rather than setting goals and building paths for the learning of my students, how might I enlist their ideas and position them to participate in setting learning goals? Might it be easier and more productive to enlist their input and commitment rather than trying to drive momentum on their behalf?
Obviously, these are only some of the options and opportunities we can identify and leverage to broaden our skills and build learning success. We can choose to grow and adjust despite the circumstances that have intruded on our routines, disrupted our plans, and challenged long-standing practices. It is up to us.