Teaching Adaptability to Help Students Succeed in a Changing World

6 min to read
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It’s expected that kids will learn reading, science, math, and other core subjects in school. But school also teaches students valuable soft skills like leadership, teamwork, resilience, and adaptability.  

Learning soft skills is just as important as academics in helping students achieve success beyond school. In a recent report, 89% of recruiters noted that when a new hire doesn’t work out, it is usually due to a lack of soft skills.  

Adaptability: A Critical Soft Skill

A person who is adaptable can make adjustments to their expectations quickly and move on to the new set circumstances without feeling anger, anxiety, or stress. People who are adaptable can weather change without missing a beat. When people are adaptable, they can function—and even excel—when faced with situations that they can’t predict or control.  

While the pandemic took change to the extreme, the disruptions to our daily lives highlighted the importance of adaptability. Students who were adaptable adjusted better to the different environment that remote learning brings.  

Adaptability and resiliency go hand in hand. Children who are taught to be adaptable and resilient are empowered to take on life’s many challenges so they can achieve their goals. Here are five key benefits of adaptability:

1. Knowing How to Overcome Barriers

Children are faced with obstacles every day. Being adaptable helps kids think of different ways to overcome barriers. This type of critical thinking will help them throughout their life.  

2. Staying Curious

Students who can adapt to different situations also tend to be more curious because they aren’t as afraid of change or the unknown. By being curious, they can find new ways of doing things and can make new discoveries.  

3. Being a Good Leader

In times of change and uncertainty, people look to leaders for answers. Leaders are faced with challenges on a daily basis, and it’s their ability to adapt that makes them successful. Children who are adaptable often emerge as leaders both in the classroom and later in life. 

4. Working Well on a Team

From sports to group projects at school to extracurricular clubs, there are times in every child’s life where they are part of a team. Being adaptable helps children adjust to ever-changing team dynamics, which will support them well beyond high school.  

5. Being Happy

A child’s overall well-being suffers when they can’t adapt to change. Negative emotions like anger, frustration, and irritability can take over. If they can’t adapt to long-term change, it could lead to anxiety and depression. One psychologist noted that “the happiest people you will ever see are those that are adaptable to change.”   


A young child planting a garden.

Adaptability in Education

While adaptability isn’t an inherent trait, the good news is that children can learn to be adaptable. Both parents and teachers play a role in developing and supporting activities to teach adaptability.  

When thinking about adaptability in the classroom, one way teachers can help students learn to be adaptable is by removing the stigma of failure. Students who are afraid of failure will turn away from trying new things. But trying new things and getting outside of their comfort zone is key to developing adaptability skills. Also, failure can teach students to learn new ways of doing something, which teaches them how to overcome barriers.   

Teachers can help students overcome the fear of failure by rewarding and recognizing effort. Celebrate milestones, not just the end results. If the student does fail, turn the experience into a teachable moment. Meet with the student one-on-one to talk through what happened. Reassure them that it is OK to fail. Brainstorm ways to overcome the obstacles that were in their way and talk about what they could do differently next time.  

Other adaptability activities for students include finding ways to pique their curiosity. Build an “I wonder” activity into your lesson plan and ask students to share things they wonder about. Kids are often afraid to ask questions, but teaching them to wonder about things and to ask questions helps feed their curiosity, and curious kids are more adaptable to change.  

Teachers can also work with parents to teach children how to self-regulate. Being able to control emotions in the face of change is an element of adaptability. At home, when kids act out, parents can help students take a moment to calm down. They can talk through the problem with their child and help them think of ways to overcome the issue. This teaches kids to stop and think instead of reacting in the moment. Parents and teachers can help kids practice calming exercises, and when a child acts out, remind them to do the calming exercises to help them refocus.  

Another activity to teach adaptability is to practice goal setting. When kids have a goal that they are focused on, they will find ways to overcome barriers that get in their way.  

A parent and her young male online student stay work together on an assignment.

Why Is Adaptability Important in Teaching?

While teaching kids to be adaptable is important, it’s also critical for teachers and Learning Coaches to be able to adapt in class. Things aren’t always going to go as expected. By finding ways to work around obstacles, approaching challenges with a positive attitude, and being adaptable, teachers and Learning Coaches can model adaptable behavior for students to learn through observation.  

Building Soft Skills in Online School

Connections Academy-supported schools focus on preparing students to find success wherever their journey takes them after graduation, which includes learning core subjects and critical soft skills. Students can connect with teachers and classmates and develop communication, teamwork, leadership, resilience, adaptability, and other key soft skills. Since they have more flexibility over their class schedule, they also learn crucial organizational skills.  

If you are interested in learning more about how Connections Academy® helps students develop soft skills like adaptability, attend an information session to get all your questions answered.  

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