Nimbleness--the New 21st Century Job Skill
In podcasting with Drs. Pam Moran (@pammoran) and Matt Hass (@mshaas68)--the current and incoming Superintendents of Albemarle County Schools respectively--I encountered a term that is being bandied about the school offices. I heard about it while I was waiting for them to come in. Gloria Rockhold (@grrock), the Community Engagement manager popped in and we talked a bit. She told me I should ask about nimbleness, and I said, "why? I haven't heard that term come up in anything." She replied, "Well, it's not really 'a thing,' but we refer to it a lot when we're talking amongst ourselves." So. Here I am working on this blogpost, and thinking that since I didn't have a good opportunity to discuss it with Pam and Matt, that I'd at least reflect upon the concept here.
I have to admit, as a word-nerd, I've always liked the word "nimble" it has a very playful sound when spoken, and makes me think of wooded, mossy places near streams where pixies play. I have no idea why, but that's what is conjured up in my mind. I'd imagine that this type of relationship with words is one that I'm not alone in.
At any rate, it occurred to me that after my brief conversation with Gloria, and then later with Matt and Pam, that this is a term relevant to the way in which teachers and really anyone in this current moment must interact with the work they do. To be nimble in this sense requires the agility of mind to hop between tasks of different cognitive natures. For example: Teacher's work is such that they may be grading/planning/teaching/playing diplomat/developing professionally/hopping from meeting to meeting all within the course of a few hours, only to head home where there are still going to be emails that pop up, more grading, etc. To do all of this well requires nimbleness.
It's not just teachers who encounter this, though I will say that teaching is one of the professions where it is frowned upon for one to leave campus during operating hours while kids are in the building. So in a way there is no escape. If you need a ten minute trip to the coffeeshop to clear your head, chances are, that's not a luxury you have--the demands from students and colleagues are too great. So as a teacher, you have to keep that stamina of nimbleness to succeed.
In cultural politics, an analogue might be the concept of code-switching. But because that term is loaded with the ideologies of race, gender, and class, the idea of nimbleness comes off as more secular concept. True, to be nimble in meetings, client interactions, conversations with supervisors requires different mindsets and lexicons; however, it does not always demand the ideological aspects of a code-switch. For some reason, I'm thinking these two concepts share a relationship like the square and the rectangle. A square is always a rectangle, but a rectangle is only sometimes a square.
So, in closing this brief post, I feel that the term nimbleness is a helpful one that pulls out some of the baggage that may not apply when one thinks of code-switching. Rather, by being nimble, one is simply recognizing that there is a certain amount of mental agility inherent in the work we do, and it is most definitely a skill that requires developing.