Unease. Awkwardness. Two words that inspire pits to form in many a stomach. Who wants to feel that way? We avoid those feelings as best we can in life, and yet, I’ve come to embrace them (at least in one area of my life).
I’ve come to realise that when it comes to teaching, there can be value in being uncomfortable.
For one, going outside of your own comfort zone can inspire others to do the same. I’ve learned from many fellow teachers who constantly take risks and try new things. They may not realise it, but their willingness to try new things with their students inspires me almost every single day. Had I not spoken to a colleague who had just tried it, I would have never sat and written a blog post in class while my students did the same (and wouldn’t be doing it here, again).
I’ve also come to learn that there is great reward in taking risks. There have been times where I’ve decided to stray from my usual lessons or assignments and try something new. Those days can go one of two ways: they could go very smoothly, and remind me that some great work can come out of trying something new, or they can go horribly wrong. What is the worst that could happen, though? Yes, I might look a bit silly in front of my students, or the assignment might have to be scrapped because it didn’t go the way I thought it would. In the end, though, I’ve come away from these experiences having learned something. If the risk went well, the payoff was likely an increase in student engagement and hopefully learning. If it flopped, well, they likely saw me work around it and move on.
It’s not always easy, though. I’m not usually comfortable enough to try new things in courses I’m unfamiliar with. The best I can do is to continue in the courses I’m most comfortable ‘playing’ in, and hope that it translates into ways to change up those other, more unfamiliar courses as well.
So the next time you’re sitting next to a colleague who seems to be doing something interesting, don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, what’s that?” as it might be the perfect starting point for your jump into the uncomfortable.