Teach & Serve
No. 10 * October 6, 2015
Related Content from And There Came A Day:
- Teach & Serve No. 9 – “Gratitude – Saying “Thank You”
- Teach & Serve No. 8 – “Have I Properly Confused You?”
- Teach & Serve No. 7 – “If You’re Not Research Based, You’re Shadow Boxing”
- Teach & Serve No. 6 – “It’s in the Doing That Things Get Done”
Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
If we are in education because we don’t like things to change, because we like predictability, because we like our own comfort, we might want to consider a different vocation
Who promised that we as teachers ought to always be comfortable?
When I was interviewed for my first teaching job at Bishop McNamara High School outside of Washington, DC, I don’t remember Al Odierno, who would become my first English Department Chair and my first mentor in the field, saying: “Hey, this is all going to go very smoothly. I don’t anticipate any bumps or issues. I am sure you already know everything you need to know. Experience doesn’t have anything to teach you.”
Ah, no. That’s not what he said. Now, I could note that I was hired in October to replace a teacher who hadn’t worked out, but I don’t think the timing of my hiring had anything to do with Al’s interview questions. And, further, I write with no fear of contradiction that, in my administrative years when I was on the other side of the hiring desk, I never once said to a candidate I was interviewing that all would go for candidates without a hitch and that their comfort was assured.
Ah, no. That’s not what I said.
Somewhere along the way, though, I think we want to get comfortable. We want to settle into our jobs as teachers and administrators and wear the job around like a pair of old slippers – the ones we put on during especially lovely weekends. We want the curve balls to stop being thrown and the surprises to stop coming. We want to be wily veterans who’ve “seen it all.”
“Man, I’ve seen it all,” we want to say over a cup of joe in the Faculty Room. “Nothing can shake me. I’ve. Seen. It. All.”
I think that perspective, while legitimately desired, kind of misses the point.
Hey, we work in an highly volatile context. Our students change. Our assignments change. Our classes change. Our technologies change. We are surrounded by constant change. So why, then, should we assume that settling into our profession means settling into comfort?
Being uncomfortable gets a bad rap, I think. Sometimes being uncomfortable is exactly where we need to be. That’s where growth comes. That’s where metamorphosis occurs.
To be clear: I am not talking about making our students uncomfortable (which is a really, really good state for them to be in, too – I’ve written on that subject in a prior blog), I am writing about us finding and embracing discomfort.
If there is something someone we trust values and we don’t understand it or are intimidated by it, that’s the direction we ought to head. If someone we trust says “try this” and we know we’ll have to overcome our reservations to do so, that’s a good choice. We should seek out experiences that challenge us, places that change us, situations that force us out of our comfort.
We work with the young and they are ever-changing and ever adapting. We work with subject matters that, likewise, change and grow. We work with technology that changes so readily it can outstrip our ability to keep pace.
Being comfortable with being uncomfortable is not a survival skill (though it cannot hurt!), it is a state of being for an excellent educator.