Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

It was in my senior year of high school that the passion to become a teacher began to bloom. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that teaching was what I was made to do. I immediately went to college to fulfill my dreams and when I graduated and got that first teaching job, I was thrilled beyond measure. I finally had an opportunity to do the things that I was trained to do.

I learned rather quickly, in my high school special education classroom that I was completely unprepared for several things. After several tear filled nights, I made a decision. I would rise to the challenge. So, I worked harder to figure out what my students needed to learn the information. I volunteered for every training that my principal would allow me to attend. I collaborated with any teacher who would share their secrets learned through experience. I soaked it up like a sponge and was eager to apply my findings to my classroom.

All the while, I was developing the boundaries of my comfort zone in my teaching profession. I became very complacent in my methodology, settling for the tried and true strategies that had been implemented. An overwhelming feeling settled on me, I could sense that I was missing a critical component in my profession. Little did I know that the answer was found in the first steps of saying “yes” to a teacher leadership opportunity. While attending a teacher conference, all the things that I was missing in my profession became clear and found direction. The absent component was that sharp feeling of being uncomfortable. Surrounded by such amazing teachers, I wasn’t sure what I was doing there and even more so, all the things that were suggested were things that would push me way out of my comfort zone and required much risk of my normal.

Teachers spoke of collaborating in the realm of social media. Blogging about reflection and teaching practices. All I heard were methods of how I should put myself “out there” to be criticized by others in a very public way. No, thank you! Then, I took a step back. I settled into my uncomfortable feelings and reflected on the things that I had done. I realized that I did have something to offer. I possess experiences in the teaching world that could help other teachers avoid the same mistakes I made or make good lessons even better.

The reason I decided to become a teacher was always about reaching kids. All the things that were being asked of me would help students, but they would make me, as the teacher, very uncomfortable. I found myself at a crossroad. I could do things the way that I have always done them; which isn’t a bad thing, but it could be better. Or, I could step out of my safe place and try something new. I could risk being ridiculed and criticized at the cost of another teacher gaining understanding. My “risk” could be the words that give confidence to a teacher to use new strategies in their classroom. I made an active decision to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This new place that I find myself is full of doubts and risks, but I am facing them head on. I am trying new things and keeping focused on the goal of helping teachers help students better. I am discovering that the more I am out of my bubble, the more that I am growing professionally. Maybe, you have also felt that tug to break out of your comfort zone. Maybe, you are ready to get your feet wet and try something new in the teacher leadership role. Let me tell you, there is support out there for you. We teachers can be so fearful to step out of our classrooms. Just know that there are teachers who need to hear the things that you have experienced. Teachers who will use your lessons to reach their students. Teachers who will stay teachers because of the tools you will equip them with.

         I challenge you today, break the norm. Step out of your boundaries and embrace the uncomfortable experiences. Try something new, whether it is getting a twitter account or starting a blog. Maybe even just commenting on blogs that you have read or joining in live chats. Your voice matters and we want to hear from you.

 

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Getting Started…First Steps Towards Teacher Leadership

Teach to Lead

I attended a Teacher Leadership Summit this past weekend and it inspired me to continue my journey to become a teacher leader. While there, I met several teacher leaders who reoriented my professional compass. Witnessing other teacher-leaders accomplishing their goals inspired me to do the same.

While at the conference, one of the Keynote speakers was Annice Brave, a  phenomenal and inspirational lecturer. When she spoke, she told the audience that she had prepared a speech, but after she met the teacher leadership group she changed it. She held a hotel notepad into the air and shouted  “This is my new speech!” She then read the words, “Slow Down…Breathe…Be in the Moment….Tell your story”. These words echoed inside me.  They described what I felt and where I wanted to go on my journey as a teacher leader.

“Slow Down”

I have a thousands things going on every minute it seems. Between my personal life and my teacher life, I am never sure how I get anything completed. When a colleague suggested ways that I could become a leader in my school, my first concern was time. Would I have time to provide leadership for students to benefit?  Being a teacher leader is as important to me as being a teacher in the classroom. Both roles directly or indirectly support my students. But I wasn’t sure I could handle all of these roles. I have learned that the key has been slowing down. Taking my time and planning my day, planning my tasks and being intentional in my actions, so that my time and attention are given to those that need it. The education world is fast paced and you have to be intentional about slowing down. I find the best way to do that is a management system,such as using a planner or a calendar; either online or in paper. You have to choose what will work for you.

“Breathe”

I’m sure you’ve heard this before. When Mrs. Brave said this it made me think of all the times that I allow myself to get overwhelmed. Things  spiral out of control. When I stare into the faces of all the things that need to be done and have not been done yet, I find myself saying…breathe, just breathe. When I get an email of one more thing to do, I just need to breathe. When my kids get sick and I have things to get done. Breathe. When things are not going to plan. Remember to breathe. It is in the breath that I am able to regain focus,devise new plans, and move. I realize that when I am not breathing, I am not moving and I need that flexibility to be successful. As you walk your journey of being a teacher leader be sure to take a moment to breathe and allow yourself to be flexible and change the plan as the plans are changing.

“Be in the moment”

As a teacher I find myself struggling with this so much. Every time I start working with a student I am thinking of the places where I need to get them to or I am thinking of the things that still need to be covered. Sometimes, I am scanning the room and seeing who else is trying to gain my attention, whether directly or indirectly. I find myself only halfway checked in with my tasks, while my brain is off planning what I will be doing four hours from now. This helped remind me that being in the moment is why I planned in the first place. I make a point to tell my students that they have my attention telling other students that I acknowledge but this moment belongs to the child I am with. When I am in meetings or discussing things with other teachers, I try to fight my desire to be pulled into my phone or allow the allure of the internet to distract me. Making sure that I am telling my team and other teachers I am working with that their time is important to me and I will honor that by being present. I will say that at times this is easier said than done. It takes a conscious effort to first recognize when you are not engaged and then to redirect yourself. Once, you start actively  being present for your students and your leadership team, the reward will be clear.  You won’t feel like you are missing details and you can identify what needs must be met.

‘Tell your story’

This is the best part of it all. Tell your story implies that you have information that is needed to be heard and that you should feel confident to tell it. I am on a this path to tap into becoming a better teacher leader. It involves stepping out of my comfort zone and placing myself to the scrutiny of my peers. The risk is great for me, as I am weighing my options and my shelter is crying out for me to return to it. But, I have convinced myself that my story. My journey. The things that I have learned may benefit another teacher. It may encourage a teacher to not quit. It may inspire a teacher to try something different to help students. It may draw a teacher to the edge of this cliff of risks and jump alongside me; embracing a world of change and committing to a life of learning to make a difference for our education system. I am not finished with my story and I am writing it I will also be sharing it. So, maybe, just maybe someone can learn from my success and even more so my failures to better their story.
Thank you, Mrs. Annice Brave. Your words have pushed me into a highly uncomfortable world, but I embracing my new role. Thank you for telling your story and inspiring me to step out and commit myself to Teach to Lead.

 

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