One of the most difficult things for all educators is the box that we place ourselves into.
We decide at some point our style of teaching, what we believe is best for all students and then we live there for a really long time. If someone comes along and tries to add something new to our box, we quickly become like Oscar the Grouch and throw it right back out. Yikes! This is such a detriment to us as teachers! Our world is changing faster than ever and by confining ourselves to our own comfort zones, we are closing off so many possibilities for and within the very students that we teach.
Now, I’ll be the first one to admit that this is difficult.
The whole idea of stepping out into the unknown and embracing something new for our students is hard. The actual act of doing it (and not just paying lip service to it) is much harder. That’s why push-back is so common when educators receive professional development. It’s one thing to look like we’re paying attention and nod our heads at a new idea. It’s a totally different thing to put those ideas into practice and give it a real shot. This is what I ask teachers to do every single time I provide a professional development session, and most of the time we have great success. People are excited by the idea of something new to reach their students. But when I come back for the follow up session, suddenly the “shiny newness” has worn off and people have the four walls of their boxes firmly up again.
So how do we get to the point where we no longer want to live in the safe box where we are in “control”?
By realizing that the box is stifling our students and our own growth. First, we must allow ourselves to be uncomfortable and feel okay with living in that space for a while. Then, we must take gradual steps outside of the box. Begin with small changes! If your administrator wants you to add more technology this year, begin with a powerpoint. Then move to a free YuDu account. Then…step into the world of Prezis! Jumping head first is discouraging because we haven’t given ourselves the time to feel uncomfortable in a small way, acknowledge it for what it is and keep going. Small steps are the best way to begin opening that box. The most important thing, though, is to begin dismantling our box one wall at a time. So that we can truly open ourselves to the wonders that surround us – our students and the world that we live in!
Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.