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.