The easy way
We are told to try new things. To learn a new skill, pick up a new hobby, explore, travel to unusual destinations, change habits. When you’re young this seems natural because you have a limited number of all these. We encourage our children to try all kinds of sports, musical instruments, art, dancing, martial arts, computing and the like. As we get older and become adults we are told to keep this up to some degree, but of course we inevitably don’t. As we develop our habits and rituals, and decide on what we are good at and what we are not, we don’t bother much with the new. Shame, because this experimenting should continue throughout our lives. It’s never too late, or too early to start, but many times we simply lack the motivation or convince ourselves that it’s not worth the trouble, there’s no time for such things.
Whether at work or during our leisure time it’s imperative that we make a concerted effort to step out of our comfort zone and attempt, through trial and error or purposeful practice, new endeavors. When we take the plunge or that leap of faith we need to stick to it and be committed. It’s not easy, by no measure, but in doing so we grow as individuals and potentially find new meaning in the work we do or the hobby/activity we take up. We are always looking for a quick fix, a self-help book, a temporary change of environment, but discover afterwards that it’s not enough to make us happy and get us unstuck from that rut. Too many times we fall right back into old habits and what is comfortable. We want change to happen but are unwilling to change ourselves, that’s the reality. Then we inevitably complain and look for places and people to shoulder the blame.
Teachers: Challenge yourselves
If we are to change the world for the better, change the education system or the work culture it starts from within. As a teacher I have always tried to take on new challenges, sought feedback from peers and looked for teaching opportunities that would put me in an uncomfortable and new situation. The beginning is always the toughest, no doubt but as I’m sure you can expect, it gets easier with time. The more we put ourselves in an uncomfortable position the more we learn something about our character and what we are capable of. With teaching, it’s asking for a younger/older class of students or a lower/higher level of English competence. We can experiment with different or new approaches to teaching and see what works and what does not. As technology comes to the forefront of education it is a teacher’s responsibility to adapt some of the new technological tools at our disposal and discover how effective/ineffective they may be. We talk a big game but are we willing to walk the walk?
Outside of education we can of course do the same. We can look for creative solutions to our tasks in order to be more efficient. Or change a habit or routine we stick to vigilantly. New drivers stick to the roads they know well, and are unwilling to venture onto new ones or very busy ones. They are scared, anxious and become unsettled by roads with heavy traffic, or ones that are hard to maybe navigate. Some, do whatever they can to avoid such roads, no matter what, so how do they expect to ever become more confident drivers? It won’t happen! Same applies in work or in life.
It’s a process, it’s a process
We always want significant change, or improvements to take place but we forget the process and time it takes. Patience, endurance and focus are essential for this. We can start small to limit the risk and build from there. For teaching it can be a small tweak in how we present new information, how we assign homework, the way we grade our students, or to the lesson itself. With each step we take, we become more daring and take bigger chances. Eventually, we might decide that not assigning homework at all is actually the solution to better learning outcomes. When you tell students to concentrate on their passions or to make their own decisions about how to learn you are overwhelming them because that step is just too fast. Take baby steps, not giant leaps. Start by asking them what they are interested in and build from there. When I explained to my leadership class that anyone can lead regardless of age or rank and that it can be something as simple as starting a group or small movement the idea was probably a bit overwhelming to them and so the effect I was hoping for didn’t materialize. Maybe what I should have tried was to encourage them to brainstorm ways they can urge and spark action at a small scale on something they care about. This could be about helping the poor, making better eating choices, bullying, raising awareness about phone addiction etc. And go from there.
Don’t expect immediate results, or everyone to jump on board with you. It’s a process, it requires endurance, patience and focus. It’s these three traits that we overlook so often but have such a powerful impact if practiced. If you want to change your eating habits don’t just stop eating meat, but reduce the amount little by little. If you want to start a movement start with finding just one person not a whole group of people. If you want to be a better teacher, start by incorporating a new exercise into your lessons, change the classroom layout, stand at the back of the class from time to time, smile more, introduce them to Padlet, to Google classroom, to Google forms, to Kahoot, show them a TED talk, a YouTube lesson on your topic, assign less homework, encourage peer learning. Should I keep going? I think you get the idea…. So get out of your comfort zone new drivers and take a different route to your destination.
“..I didn’t know where I’d end up. You don’t have to know, you just have to go.” – Mark Cuban