Reflexive Agility

For those who haven’t heard this yet, 2020 is not a normal year. In every way, shape, and form, it is not normal. But in the educational space, we are bending ourselves over backwards to try and be normal. Unfortunately, the typical catch phrases are being flung from all directions to try and keep everyone in their traditional identities and to minimize (or ignore) the need for reflexive agility.

For too long, educators have been directly or suggestively reminded that the metrics of their success are measured on the amount of themselves they ignore in order to prioritize the students in their class. Analyzing the profound cost benefit of this activity is a prime example of how the abnormality of 2020 was (and may still be) the greatest gift given to education. This unwritten rule must come full stop and we must focus on the needs of our greatest resources in the educational process…. passionate educators. At no point in our teacher training programs were we presented with an instruction manual that outlined our steps to success… Step 1: don’t think about yourself. Step 2: write your standards on the board… Unfortunately, we continue to hear Administrators and parents perpetuate this myth. Rarely has there ever been a more appropriate time for the saying :”you can’t love anything until you love yourself.” Now is the time…

I have been in a long standing battle with a foe that has many supporters. As soon as progress is made against 1, 5 more come in to back him up. But I urge us to collectively change our vocabulary so we can more accurately contextualize the moment. From today and forever moving forward, we must stop identifying things as “traditions” in our classrooms. Too often, labeling anything as “tradition” places barriers around it that render it protected at the highest levels (both emotional and physical). More often than not, what we give that label is more accurately identified as a “habit“. This simple adjustment will free educators who are heartbroken over the various traditions that they cannot deliver in this abnormal year, and enable them to respond in meaningful ways to the moment in front of them.


  • You do not “traditionally” have a concert in the auditorium every December, you habitually do.
  • You do not “traditionally” do this project every October, you habitually do.
  • You do not “traditionally” have a trip to this theme park, you habitually do.

I recognize that the change between “tradition” and “habit” may feel clunky, but that is more about comfort than it is function. When we have habits, we fully recognize the flexibility and opportunity to change them at any point. So now is the time to make the biggest change in the US Education system… educators have a habit of putting their students before themselves while Education Leaders & Student Families reinforce this habit, but we are going to change to a new habit of putting ourselves first. (see, it’s so simple)

If you are not your best self, you are not your best in the classroom … you are not your best for your students … you are not your best for your school community. When we talk about the SEL needs of our students, are we talking about the SEL needs of our teachers? When we talk about the difficulty getting engagement and the building anxiety/stress in our students, are we talking about what the teachers are feeling? When we focus on the habits of submitting lesson plans and writing standards on the board, are we celebrating that the teacher didn’t have a breakdown in class, because that was their goal today?

This school years greatest gift to us is an opportunity to reimagine what our pedagogy looks like, the content/curriculum choices we make to include in our class, the demonstrations of learning we’ll accept, and ultimately, what our place is in this profession (btw, we are the greatest asset and human capital investment that any school community can give support to and we shouldn’t be modest or shy about accepting that investment).

  • Administrators need to stop drawing lines in the sand that force teachers to give up themselves for students or be treated as a traitor to the profession. Your job is to support and communicate, not guilt and nag. Focus more on connecting people and not maintaining educational traditions. And yes, I acknowledge that your identity is being challenged, too.
  • Student families need to remember that teachers are humans too, with the same social stresses as everyone else (money, childcare, family, etc). But with the added bonus of influencing and caring for 30-180 of other people’s children at the same time. It is a complex task for even the most confident educators.
  • Teachers need to remember that our identity is formed in our passion for the craft and the people interactions that we have. At no point should your identity be negotiated away for someone else’s vision for who you should be.

Having reflexive agility is purposefully engaging in reflection, planning specific responses to adjust where needed, and intentionally staying in this cycle. Teachers need to have an identity that is focused on improving yourself because we are a process, not a product – a journey, not a destination – a collection of habits, not cemented traditions. Now is the time to reimagine what the “art of teaching” can look like in your space.

One Response to Reflexive Agility

  1. Patricia says:

    Well said!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Eastmark Arts

...where relevance guides our creativity!


listening, sound education, soundmuseum

The Breathing Blog

A musician's guide to healthy breathing

Christian Carichner

Tuba and Euphonium Artist, Multi-Faceted Educator, and Advocate for the Arts


...yeah, I have an opinion about that.


John Manning's Blog

Steven Bryant

Husband . Father . Musician . Educator

Musical Futures

Musical Futures is a movement to reshape music education driven by teachers for teachers

%d bloggers like this: