How do we impact and sustain adaptability and flexibility in these dynamic times? Adult educators must consider how to reshape the integration of the contextualized aspects of adult learners and adult education, to remain part of this transformational movement of continuous engagement and creating better programs even as the urgency of the past two years starts to fade.
As a result of the pandemic, we learned to adjust to the new realities presented to us. In doing so, we had to be flexible in how we worked, taught, engaged, and socialized with others. Amid a myriad of changes including budget cuts, increased workloads, transitioning to online and distance formats, we had to sustain our programs and ourselves. Furthermore, we learned to think not just outside the box, but far beyond it and into new facets of creation. The pandemic reminded us that we can be left behind or be moved to adapt to change. Social justice tragedies and the pandemic caused an irreversible dramatic paradigm shift in both our personal and professional lives. We were reminded of the injustices that continue to plague our country and the world. Minoritized groups were yet confronted with obstacles to basic rights, such as voting. Lives and livelihoods were snatched away. Environmental justice issues, such as climate change, remained front and center as some communities were torn apart from natural disasters. Our standard procedures and processes were challenged and our way of life altered.
We have learned some important lessons. We must consider how they can help us sustain the current momentum into the future. These lessons come from the field of adult education and include our practices, our learners, our communities, and ourselves. As we adapt, we must embrace new practices that have been successful in continuing our quest for social justice and creating safer and better learning spaces for adult learners in an increasingly digital world. If our new practices have not succeeded as we hoped, what have we learned, what is the next step? What are the challenges and opportunities that we need to anticipate and address so that we, as adult educators, can sustain our adaptability and flexibility? As the adult education field continues to evolve within this paradigm shift, what opportunities, careers, positions, or professional development should we pursue on behalf of our learners and ourselves that should be continued as we forge ahead?
In our efforts to remain relevant while simultaneously serving as social justice advocates and accomplices, we cannot lose sight of our mission to provide leadership for the field, unify adult educators, disseminate useful information, and advocate relevant public policy. Our 2021-2023 strategic plan lays a blueprint for us to be relevant in dynamic times. It is imperative that our current partnerships be strengthened while we also seek new affiliations and associations. As we continue to grow, we must consider how we can help members develop professionally and personally and prepare them for leadership. We should explore how to best utilize our Commissions in order to enhance the membership experience and to make our organization a dynamic force.
A clarion call has been sounded and it is one for critical self-examination. During this year’s conference, consider the times in which we live. What are those practices, activities, and issues we have the responsibility to address? How can you use your membership in AAACE to extend beyond your current level of engagement and better serve our field? How will you respond to our dynamic times? When we all contribute our expertise, skills, and resources, we enhance the overall experience for everyone.