What If it isn’t just the individuals within an organization who need to be flexible?
What If the organization itself needs to adapt at times?
If you have been working in afterschool for more than ten minutes, you understand that flexibility and the ability to adapt to circumstances is critical to maintaining your sanity.
Every day in an out-of-school time setting, situations arise that cause us to adjust our plans and actions on the fly. Whether it is a coworker calling in sick so we have to carry more of the load or an activity we have planned gets rained out, afterschool professionals know that the ability to be flexible and to adapt is foundational to our work with students.
We have to practice being flexible and adapting on a day to day basis.
There is a tendency in humans to want to remain comfortable. It is in our nature to find a place of safety and comfort and then stay there. The problem is that things keep changing around us. When we keep doing things the way we’ve always done them, over time what we offer can become less relevant to those we are working to serve. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. Our approach can become outdated. This goes for individuals and for organizations.
So, how do we combat this tendency?
What do we need to do to practice being flexible and adaptable?
- Be Proactive. It is usually easier to change on your own terms than it is to change because you are being forced to change. Set regular times to evaluate what you are doing as an organization and as an individual. Ask questions about why you are doing something a certain way. If you have a solid justification for doing it that way, then keep doing it. If you are doing something because that is the way it’s always been done, it may be time for a change.
- Stay current on trends in education. Read books and articles that are relevant to how you would like your program to operate. Talk to others in the field to find out how they are approaching different components of programming. Keep your mind open to ideas and opportunities that will improve your organization, even if it means changing the way you operate. This doesn’t mean you chase every trend and fad, but it can help you stay aware of how things are changing and how you might be able to adjust what you do.
- Look forward. You will need to be intentional about this one for sure. It is so easy to get caught in the routine of the day to day and to forget about the long term. A good practice is to sit down once a year (now would be a good time!) and talk with your coworkers about what you would like to accomplish throughout the year. As a discussion starter, talk about what your students, their parents, your funders, your community, and school administration would say about your program at the end of this school year. What will you need to do for people to say these things about you and your program? Keep an eye on the future in all that you do and adapt where you see the need.
Flexibility and adaptability are necessary when working with students. They are just as necessary as we look at the big picture of afterschool.
What If you practice being flexible and adaptable in order to help move your organization forward?
Afterschool Resource Coordinator
Missouri AfterSchool Network
Brad Lademann is a dynamic youth speaker with 16 years of public speaking experience and 12 years of experience working with middle school and high school students. He has worked with teens in many capacities including teacher, youth pastor, coach, mentor, and afterschool program supervisor. He currently works with MASN as our Resource Coordinator and provides technical assistance to SAC and 21CCLC grantees.