Monday, October 19, 2015
Every day when I open a new tab in my Chrome browser, I am greeted by the Momentum Chrome extension - a beautiful landscape, a friendly message, and an inspiring quote. Today’s quote was this:
Whether it was the meaning behind the quote, the particular word choice within the sentence, or even the person who said it, this quote has stayed with me all day. I’ve been preaching this mindset for a while, and believe in it so much, that it has become a message I internalize daily, while also publicly sharing it with other educators and leaders.
While this might be easy to say, fulfilling this mindset on a daily basis can be more difficult. I believe every educator pushes themselves, but it is the fear of being “paralyzed” that stops us from taking more risks than we do.
I’m particularly struck by the word “paralyzed” from this quote. Images flood my mind - frozen, stuck, unable to move or speak, wide-eyed with fear.
As educators, we do not typically associate ourselves with the concept of being “paralyzed”, and yet, many days we are just that. Our anxiety may take over us, filling us with fear of the unknown or the risk of failing in front of our students and colleagues. We may not want to try a new approach or a new tool, acknowledging that we do not know all there is to know or this strategy might not work.
We work in the learning business, and so we want our students to always be learning. If it worked last year to help students learn, then it must work again, right? We are perfectionists, always striving to do our very best for our students, so we must be on our “A”-game all of the time. The risk of trying something new may not be worth the anxiety, or being paralyzed, in the middle of our lesson. We become paralyzed with a fear of failure, because if it doesn’t work, then somebody might be watching.
Beyond our classrooms, as learning professionals, we also do not want to “sound” like we do not know what we are talking about in front of other educators, particularly educators we may not know well, and so we are paralyzed to step forward, paralyzed to jump onto social media to share our insights, paralyzed to reflect publicly in a blog post. It is not that we can’t. It is not that we don’t have valuable insights and ideas to share. It simply is the anxiety of the unknown feelings after these acts of sharing.
What if I shared an idea EVERYONE already knows?
What if I jumble what I really want to say?
At any moment, we all may be “paralyzed” with fear of something. But, we cannot allow this to control our abilities to take risks, try something new, and put ourselves out there. We must overcome these fears, follow great examples from other educators, and simply not be afraid to try.
In fact, we ask our students to try something new every day. Why shouldn’t we?
Lead by Example
I strive to lead by example, every day, not allowing myself to be paralyzed by fear of failure. I will take risks, teach myself how to do something, put myself out there on social media and in my blog, and strive daily to share. Daily, I push myself to grow.
Do I fail?
And I do so publicly.
I will not allow the fear of failure get in my way.
Do I have anxiety about failing?
However, I will not allow this anxiety to take control of who I am and what I am trying to accomplish in my school.
I have taken many risks in my career. I have started this blog, for instance. Pushing the publish button for the first time was a HUGE risk. The “what if” scenario played in my mind continually. My vulnerability was public. Yet, I knew if I wanted others to reflect through a blog because I have seen the power of it, I had to push that publish button, leading by example.
Many would say I am a little “Twitter-crazy”. To put myself out there on social media was a risk, but it was definitely one worth taking. I learn daily from my PLN, share the great happenings of my school, and have an amazing tribe with whom I rely on for support, ideas, and growth. My PLN tribe pushes me to be better than the day before. This collaborative field of amazing educators has opened the doors of growth, pulled me out of the isolated silos that can be found in our schools, and empowered me to find my voice in the educational field. I am blessed and humbled by the inspiration this venue provides me daily.
The most exciting part of any given day is when I see educators pushing themselves to be better as well, taking risks, not allowing that fear of failure to paralyze them from trying something new for their students. The mindset of being paralyzed is starting to wane, and I see a new rise of risk-taking, choice, and control over learning take hold in our schools. It is beautiful!
I see many of my teachers on Twitter, sharing, lurking, learning, and growing. Educators are collaborating, opening their doors for other educators, building their own professional learning networks, and setting their goals on growth and learning. I see teachers trying new tools with their students, feeling out of their comfort zone, but giving students control, empowering them with choice. Teachers are starting blogs, now leading a book study about becoming a connected educator. Classrooms are filled with new ideas, a hook to the lesson, inquiry and research.
By saying “yes”, “give it a try”, “take a risk”, and actually modeling what we wish to see, we aim to remove the paralyzed barriers from our teachers, so that they can create the learning environments they wish to see for their students. Teachers can feel the autonomy and empowerment needed to develop spaces and opportunities for students to explore, to create, be curious, to inquire, and take control of their own learning. If we do not push ourselves from our comfort zones, we cannot expect our students to do this either.
Every educator must move beyond the fear of failure, and push themselves to grow and try new strategies and ideas for the betterment of their students. Our students’ futures depend on our willingness to model this mindset in all we do.
Monday, October 5, 2015
Blogger’s block. I fully intend to write in my blog at least once, if not twice a month, but it has been over a month since I have written anything. I have felt completely out of my element, struggling to find words or even a coherent topic, despite my mind racing thousands of miles per hour daily. I have, from time to time, jotted down quick notes or even written that blog post in my head while getting ready in the morning. But inevitably, by the time I sit down to write, my thoughts are jumbled and my notes lack the clarity I need to form cohesive thoughts.
So here I sit, writing about the lack of knowing what to write about. I’m hoping by sitting and typing, the epiphany will hit.
With that said, there have been many great happenings and accomplishments so far at school. Our district had an impressive professional development day at the end of September, starting with a keynote from Matt Miller, author of Ditch That Textbook, followed by fabulous learning about blended learning and collaboration among grade levels and departments district-wide. I was so fortunate to be a part of the planning process alongside fantastic technology leaders Kelly Clifford and Lance Yoder. Even more than that, in just this past week, I have witnessed our classrooms moving toward blended learning, literally overnight, and my teachers rejuvenated with new ideas and sharing, something I haven’t seen at this level in quite some time. It is definitely something worth sharing and celebrating!
And yet, I have felt stuck. Why?
I started to look back through old blog posts, searching for inspiration. Nothing hit me, but I did begin to see a pattern, soon realizing that my past reflections were grounded in one thing, moments.
I have finally come to this conclusion. Through it all, I have been searching for these profound, deep thoughts to reflect upon, and yet, the moments have been right in front of me. The everyday accomplishments are those to celebrate, reflect on, and write about. I have clearly been searching for the wrong thing! The moments all around me, occurring daily, ARE the profound, thought-provoking happenings to share. We need to grab every moment and share it!
The interactions, continual learning, and growth among students and staff are to be celebrated and shared, something I preach and strongly believe in, but I somehow got off track in doing. These moments happen every day, and while they may seem ordinary at the time, are truly the extraordinary and profound to reflect upon later. I’ve been searching for the research, the culture-shifting statement, the thought-provoking analogy, only to find that the best practices have been staring at me in the face, the culture shift I seek to build is happening all around me, and there are no thought-provoking analogies I need to find because my staff and students are taking the amazing journey daily to grow and build a foundation of life-long learning opportunities.
In my reflection, I need to take a moment to stop, look around, and then celebrate and share the adventures of learning happening in front of me. I feel back in my element again, and am ready to get back to what I know and can share.
Even more than that, it is EVERY EDUCATOR’S job to celebrate our work with students. We need to share the fabulous activities and growth of our students daily, posting pictures, making phone calls to parents, and being the positive voice of our schools. It is not ONE person’s job; it is EVERYONE’S job. It only takes a moment to share a moment. This is how we will create a culture of sharing, celebrating, and growth.
Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/photos/letter/