Breaking Through Comfort Zones

“Mrs. Leeeeeeee, I don’t wannaaaaaa. What if my teachers say I can’ttttttttt?”

Here’s the deal. I’ve been accused of picking favorites. Look me up on teacher sites, and you’ll see it. I admitted to the class where a student asked the above question that it’s true. I do pick favorites. Do your work? You’re a favorite. Don’t? You’re not.
Truth. Might be wrong, but it is what it is.
Does that mean I won’t work with you? Nope. Does it mean I’m going to let you skate by being a solid C-D-F student and not jump up and down, tease, cajole, insist, call your parents, make you call your parents while I’m standing there (great idea from a great English teacher), do everything in my power to make you one of my favorites? Nope. If you’re in my class, I don’t plan on letting you skate (unless you bring skates to the room. It’s big enough now to do that.). In fact, if you’re not doing your work, I’m going to make you as uncomfortable as I can. If you’re not doing your work and you’re comfortable in my classroom, I’m not doing my job.
The girl with the above quote? She’s one of my favorites. Most of my students fit that bill.
I’m in the middle of revamping my program. Because of that, I’m pushing kids out of their comfort zones. I figure the above conversation intro will be repeated time and time again over the next six weeks. The next couple weeks we’re touching on photography. We’re using Walsworth’s curriculum and taking it step by step. Step one: Visual Storytelling. I knew she was going to freak when I told all of the students they were doing this. It took six months to get her comfortable with interviewing. If I’d let her sit in front of the computer and design or write editorials and reviews–especially book reviews, she’d be in HEAVEN. But I wouldn’t be doing my job.
So I made her take the photos and narrow them down to 5-7 to tell a story. She has to have a lead image, variety and a closer.
I’m gone to Regionals tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what she has when I get back. And if she still needs to do the work, I know I can get her to do it when I’m back. Because she’s that kid. She wants to do a good job. She CAN do a good job. But she’s afraid.
She’s afraid of people looking at her while she’s holding the camera, of teachers telling her to put the camera away, of doing the work wrong, of doing something she really has no idea how to do because my instructions after an overview of visual storytelling were pretty general: Find a Rider story and tell it photographically.
She wants specifics. And she wants to hide. And she wants to be comfortable.
Not going to happen.
And when we’re done, maybe not this time–or the next–or the next, but before she leaves my program, she’ll have learned how to get out of her comfort zone. How when you walk into a room sure of yourself and your mission, people generally let you go about your business, especially when you have a press pass.
And while I’m teaching her and the other kids in my program, I’m teaching myself the same thing.
Because once upon a time, I WAS AFRAID. I didn’t want to be noticed. I was afraid of failure and wanted to be left alone in the world of newspaper and yearbook advising, and I didn’t want to worry about other technology or education reform or campus leadership. Once upon a time the only people who knew my thoughts and feelings were close friends. But a good teacher friend of mine who taught debate and WFISD’s Leadership Cohort changed me.
And if I don’t get her out of HER comfort zone, I’m letting that old me come back into the picture. Not going to happen.

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2 responses to “Breaking Through Comfort Zones

  1. Great job … push them. Keep them engaged. I had a few teachers that pushed me. Ok well, some pushed in the wrong direction (I called them bad teachers) others pushed in the right direction. I call them Superheros! Many Teachers are the SUPERHEROS. They deserve much more respect … and pay. Especially since “parents” have dumped much of their responsibility (of teaching and raising their child) squarely on the shoulders of teachers. Some students need a gentle nudge, some need a push, some need a kick in the …! You get an (A) for the end of the quarter! It’s difficult (with all the pressures that teachers have today …. and trying to balance your life) to remember “Today is a new day, make it count.” Too bad it’s not that easy … or maybe it is! If you’d like to continue teaching, and another challenge, and need to brush up on your spanish …and do some learning for yourself…come give us a hand for a week or two. How many “ands” were in that last sentence? Didnt you always say that you wanted to travel on your huge long lengthy months of summer vacation? HA! Check us out at http://www.teachateacher.org and here on wordpress. You could gain a new perspective “and” share even more insight with your students. I believe you might find it to be a win win win situation for everyone! thanks, mac

  2. I became a writer because an old English teacher made it hard on me. After I complained for the upteenth time, she told me she rode me hard because she knew I had potential. That has motivated me ever since 8th grade.

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