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The Educator Motivator

Teach Outside
Your Comfort Zone

It was the middle of the school year, and I was going through a rough stretch when it seemed like nothing I tried was working with one particular class. I must note that, although I wasn't a beginning teacher, with less than three years experience, I was still considered a new teacher.

I found myself complaining to a colleague who always seemed to possess a positive attitude, no matter what the circumstances. I told him that I felt very uncomfortable about the progress of that one class, and that many of the students seemed to lack the necessary basic skills to master the subject matter.

My colleague proceeded to share a simple philosophy that has transformed not only my teaching career, but my personal life as well. He suggested that having a challenging class like the one I had was a blessing more than a burden.

He asked me, "Has this class made you more or less creative?" Of course, I answered "more." He asked, "Has this class caused you to be more or less resourceful?" Again, I replied, "more." He continued, "Has this class led you to pray more or less?" And of course, I laughed and said, "more." And then he made his point.

He told me that the last thing a new teacher should ever want is to become comfortable. He said that comfort breeds complacency, which leads to a false sense of security. He said that whenever we get comfortable, we tend to develop a false sense of confidence (i.e., security), believing we're in full control of a situation. Often, that false sense of security allows us to take things for granted, including our class.

My colleague wasn't saying that was always the case, but I agree that if we take a closer look at it, as it relates to a marriage, it makes perfect sense. When couples first start dating, each person usually works hard to figure out what the other person likes or dislikes, and looks for creative and thoughtful ways to please the other person -- no matter how difficult it might be. But what happens when we figure out the other person? We often stop doing the very thing(s) it took for us to win his or her heart in the first place.

I believe teaching can be viewed the same way. Often, when a subject, lesson, or class becomes easy, its also easy to shift into a pattern of cruise control. We've all known that one veteran teacher who hasn't changed his or her curriculum, handouts, films, or tests in 15+ years. That kind of attitude of complacency can sometimes lead us to not push ourselves to a higher level of excellence.

The truth is, when everything's comfortable, we actually believe we're in control of things. But when things get uncomfortable, God gently reminds us of who's really in control: He is. Comfort iscomfortable, but remember, it's not the goal. The goal is constant and never-ending improvement. Such a simple shift in our thinking can make a huge difference in our performance both in and outside the classroom.

So step outside your comfortable teaching box and thank God for the tough ones.

Article by Joe Martin
Education World®
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