Leaving your Comfort Zone
Here is a question for all stakeholders involved in the realm of education: how many of you feel safe leaving your comfort zone?
Before we dive into this topic, I ask you to reflect:
Each day, our hope is for students to risk more so as to learn more. And with such, as educators, we are to ensure the safety of our students, in all aspects of the learning environment, so they may pursue learning beyond their comfort zone. It is beyond this comfort zone, as displayed above, where “the magic happens!”
Yet, this then begs the question, is it truly a matter of ensuring safety for our students, or rather support?
The Double Standard
Consider present strategies flooding the “modern” instructional realm. What do Genius Hour, MakerSpaces, Problem-Based Learning strategies all have in common?
Student ownership of the learning environment.
Through each strategy, a movement has occurred to pass the “power” of learning back to the students. To engage students to in an authentic approach where growth is the focus; growth of an individualized, personalized, and relevant manner. It provides students with the capability to connect the disciplines, to evaluate and apply concepts in a manner that is often collaborative.
Imagine the characteristics of the above classroom. Often it consists of the following:
Provides stimulating discussions
Provides a sense of fluidity
Students are engaged in applicable activities
And from all, safe.
Yet, most importantly, it meets students where they are. We ought to be considering various forms of data, and when we do, we find meaningful instructional approaches to ensure a pathway to growth. Ultimately, we engage our students in an environment of learning that chooses to develop them as “leaders” of their own learning.
Now here’s the paradox. Do educators have the ability to create a similar environment for their own professional growth experience?
Reclaiming the Profession
I challenge educators to consider the aforementioned paradox in their own profession. How does the double standard relate to us?
Are we owners of our own professional development?
Are we owners of our growth as educators?
Is professional development lending itself to meet the individual where he or she may be, or where the majority is?
Do we have the power of differentiated choice within our professional development?
Do we have the ability to practice our innate creativity?
And if such questions are met with a harden “no,” then how do we reverse such?
There is no one solution, and there shouldn’t be just as there is no one way to instruct a child. However, I bring up possible avenues for sake of revitalizing the approaches and conceptualization of our profession. Each solution begins by leaving the comfort zone…
- Differentiated professional development, whether flipped or not, allows for educators to have options. Power in options creates power in personalized growth.
- Teacher led professional development fosters accountability, professionalism, and collaboration as it redefines the profession. As educators, we encompass many legalities in our profession, yet our voice is limited. What if we reclaimed it and began to perceive one another as experts in our field. By choosing to view one another as experts, it builds us as leaders, and creates a foundation of respect due to the collaboration involved.
- Teachers advocating for themselves and others. What is more important than reclaiming a voice for our own profession?
- Teachers observing other teachers to see instructional practice in action so as to develop in-house experts. This develops a culture of community throughout the entire district.
- Find support in other educators; become a connected educator. Whether this is through a Twitter PLN, your own colleagues, etc., support can push you to risk more and learn more, advancing your own abilities for the betterment of all whom educators reach. In this you find a willingness to try, to risk and to continually question.
- Transparency, transparency, transparency! Transparency in our approaches and expert instructional resources allows us to further our colleagues and ultimately our students. And with such transparency, we begin to eliminate the barriers which have surrounded our profession. Within transparency, we find support and safety.
- Be active in your own professional growth (which lends itself to all the above!)
Just remember, there is power in numbers, there is power in accountability, and with such, we as educators have the power to transform our profession. So I challenge educators to eliminate the double standard, and become owners of our own profession and learning environment. Ultimately, what could this result in for our profession, for our colleagues, and for our students?