Improvise, Adapt and Overcome

By: John Williams, CATA State Treasurer

In March our lives were turned upside down; lack of toilet paper and ground beef along with the loss of teaching in person. For many of us, the thought of not teaching in front of students, working with students on projects, or other aspects of our careers seemed like a bad dream. Although I do not teach in the secondary world anymore, one thing I always look forward to in my new role is hosting State Finals for the Small Engines and Farm Power Contests. I miss seeing all of the coaches from all over the state, some of which have become some of my closest friends. I look forward to the day when we can come back together at field days, conferences, and other activities to interact in person.  

The purpose of this article is not to bring back bad memories or frustrations, but to look at what we have done as educators. I remember when I was a credential student and I had a professor who preached that we needed to be open-minded and ready for the challenges and changes in teaching from year-to-year and to be prepared for the challenges every class period.  The terms improvise, adapt and overcome have been cemented in my mind since those days during my initial student teaching. In our current environment, we have so many unknowns. Some districts have opened, some have not. We have state and local governments and health organizations constantly making changes and decisions, sometimes it’s hard to follow (I gave up trying to keep up with all of that and have been focusing on myself and family). What we do know, is that we are educators, we have a passion for agriculture and we have a passion for student success.  

Life may have given us lemons, but I am proud to say that teachers have very much turned those lemons into lemonade. When the shutdown started, I saw teachers go into the improvise phase to work towards some sort of model of distant learning. Zoom sessions were taking place in our state and regions to offer support, collaboration and new ideas. We as a collective group worked towards making each other better with ideas on how to address distant learning in a “hands-on” curriculum. We as agriculture teachers answered the call to improvise, in collaboration with state staff, governing board and other committees, we planned LDE’s, CDE’s and CATA Summer Conference. There were FFA State Officer elections, a talent program, delegate work, and a virtual state conference. Was it all perfect? No, not at all, but it was all very well done and it gave our association and students memories and opportunities.  

As we moved into the end of the school year and into summer, we had the opportunity to recharge our batteries. Some schools were planning on coming back to in person learning, our governor may have changed those plans, and so now, we have had the time to adapt.  New technologies being used, new ideas being thought of and a new school year has just begun. From improvising in the spring, we have had the time to adapt our lives, our teaching, and technological capabilities to serve our students. We no longer have to remember what a “Zoom” session is, it has been embedded in our lives now (I wish I would have invested in Zoom back in January). Our lives have adapted to the pandemic, to distance learning, and how we do our jobs. This will make us stronger in the future and will give us many tools that we did not know we had access to. This adaptation has not been easy for many or all of us, but it is growth, and I am sure we can all agree that we strive to grow as better people, better teachers and better leaders.  

In the timeline since March, we have improvised and adapted, the next question is: “How will you overcome?” This is something we all need to think about. I would like to say that this will all be over soon, but the reality is, it will still be a while. So now there will be new obstacles that we have to overcome. The new challenges may be easily seen, and some will be hidden until the last minute. We have shown that we can take on adversity, now it is time to show we can overcome adversity. When this pandemic is over, will you be able to say, “I did everything I could to be a better person, better teacher and better servant?” I hope you can.The work we all have done in this dark time has been special and we should all feel proud, but there is always more work to do both in our personal lives and professional lives, and I hope that you continue to overcome all of the challenges you face this year. 

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit http://calagteachers.org/

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