FLEXIBLE: (adjective) pliable . limber . adaptable . versatile . tolerant . amenable
Yesterday I saw the yellow buses plying the roads again, a clear signal of the start of school. Time was when we had to wait until after Labor Day for school bells to ring following the summer hiatus. Not so nowadays. In the school world, schedules and calendars have been significantly adjusted; the word flexibility has had broad application. There was a time when a college semester lasted 18 weeks, and some misguided college administrators arranged for the completion of the second semester after the Christmas break. Does anyone now living remember that? The final exams were given in January. At least, this was the way it happened at two of the institutions I attended. Things are much more enlightened nowadays.
Along with the tax-free weekends, another “sign of the times” is that teachers are attending workshops and seminars designed to help them fine-tune their skills prior to opening day. I learned of one such event, the Teacher Academy, held by our local school district and thoroughly approved of it as a valuable investment of taxpayer dollars. The better equipped the teachers, the better prepared their products will be. I read a brief devotional recently in which the writer told of experiencing a justifiable case of nerves as she prepared to teach middle school for the first time, an assignment demanding an extra measure of flexibility. The young teacher called her former teacher, someone at the top of her game in the profession, and asked her for advice. She was surprised at the answer she received: “Be ready to improvise, for teaching is fluid.”
Fluidity and willingness to change are characteristics of superior teachers. They exhibit all or most of the definitions of flexibility, foremost among them adaptability, tolerance, and versatility. These are all desirable qualities for teachers, but anyone can benefit from cultivating them. Flexibility is a good thing.
As one dictionary puts it, flexibility suggests “smooth elegance in grace,” like “the fluidity of dancers’ movements.” O for that kind of attitude or spirit that makes us adapt to life’s circumstances like graceful dancers. The 17th century Cavalier poet Robert Herrick gives us a striking figure of fluidity, what it looks like, in his poem “To Julia”:
Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
The liquefaction of her clothes.
How do you like the word liquefaction? To have the fluidity and flexibility that a young woman’s silk dress creates as she walks may seem far-fetched, but it is a singular picture of gracefulness. The movements suggest attractive adaptability ; quite the opposite of rigidity. We learn lessons in math, English, biology and other subjects from teachers, but some of what they have to offer us is not in textbooks. Observing them teaches us good and lasting lessons of how to be flexible, open to change— lessons that we can draw on in the work world as well as in our interpersonal relationships.
The Master Teacher is the well-known designation for Christ, our Example in all things. In His teaching He was adaptable, fitting His message to all levels of hearers, drawing lessons from all areas of life–from sowing seed to searching for treasure. We can learn from Him to be flexible in our dealings with the foibles of our fellow beings, and, since we all are teachers in one way or another, let us remain fluid in our interactions.
“Good teaching is one-fourth perspiration and three-fourths theater.”
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