It is hard to step out of your comfort zone and all too often we find ourselves living by the old adage, “Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t.”
We work at the same job, live in the same place and eat the same meals week after week. There is comfort and safety in continuity. Life is just easier. You don’t have to think too hard about the decisions you need to make, because truthfully you really aren’t making any life shattering choices. Additionally, there is no risk. When you are a creature of habit there is little risk of upset, injury or disappointment.
It is so easy to get lulled by that comfort and safety. The problem with this, is that one does not grow as a person if you live in the land of sameness.
STAGE ONE: THRILL AND EXCITEMENT
I can openly admit that I am a creature of habit and have an exceptionally hard time stepping outside of my comfort zone. For example, I have essentially taught the same two grades since 1996. Yes, I have taught other grades or classes along the way, but my home room class has been either grade 7 or 8 for the past 19 years. My husband has suggested we move out of our province on many occasions, but over the years, the biggest change I have made was moving to a new city just a few short kilometres from where I grew up.
Oh yes, I am most certainly a creature of safety and habit, but this spring I was was given an opportunity to step outside my comfort zone.
I was asked if I wanted to teach Grade 9. I know, I know it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, but as Grade 9 is a standardized testing year in Alberta, I have always sworn I would NEVER teach at this level. Now add to the fact that I love the Grade 7 Curriculum. One could say that I have mastered my content. I understand the students that step into my room each year and I know exactly how to motivate them. Grade 7 is also the year students at our school go to Fort Steele. Over the past 12 years, I have taken hundreds of students on this trip and each spring I revel in how it changes them as learners and people. Seriously, why would I ever give this up?
Fast forward to this spring and the day I was asked, and subsequently decided to leave the comfort of a grade I have taught for almost two decades. I will admit I was feeling the “Groundhog Day” effect of the year and the prospect of a new curriculum was thrilling. The new possibilities of a different grade seemed endless and exciting. How could I not say yes?
Just as humans are creatures of habit, we also love a little excitement in our lives. It is often that enticing thrill that leads us to take that first step toward change.
STAGE TWO: SECOND GUESSING
So I had said yes. I had agreed to take a step outside of my professional comfort zone. As the people around me began to question my decision, so did I. For this very reason Stage Two of stepping outside of your comfort zone is THE MOST DANGEROUS. This is the stage when it is all too easy to second guess yourself and go back on your decision.
In the days and weeks following my choice all I could think about was what I was leaving behind: a curriculum I knew and loved, a teaching partner I respected and shared a common vision of education with, an outdoor education trip I had created and grown over the years.
Then in my second guessing I began to closely examine all of the potential pit falls that lay ahead of me, because not only am I a creature of habit, but I am also a worrier. Oh this was a slippery slope I was heading down. During my middle of the night worry sessions I came up with reason after reason of why I should go back and tell my administrators I had made a terrible mistake.
It was during this time that I met a lady who made the simplest of statements. “Change isn’t good, change isn’t bad. Change is just different.” This was a bit of an epiphany moment for me.
Change is just different.
As we second guess ourselves by looking for the good, bad and ugly of a new situation, we get caught up in all that could possibly go wrong and many of us turn our backs on a new opportunity. The safety of sameness is a siren song that is sometimes hard to walk away from. During these moments of self doubt it is important to accept that change is just different and take that step toward the next stage.
STAGE THREE: PERSONAL GROWTH
As the weeks stretched forward, and I accepted that my new school year would be different, two things occurred. First of all, I worried less; sleep returned and I stopped looking for the good, bad and ugly. The second thing to occur was I found myself excited by the prospects of the new school year. I spent more and more time looking at my curriculum and began to plan new and exciting lessons for my students, and in that planning the possibilities for the year once again seem endless. I have done more educational reading in July than I ever have. I have exposed myself to new strategies, resources and educational practices. I stepped out of my comfort zone and already I have grown as a educator.
I am discovering that the third stage of stepping out of ones comfort zone is the best of all. There a sort of freedom to it all as you are no longer held down by your personal sense on tradition and what has always been done. You have the opportunity to try something new and in that you can only grow as a person.
Will the new school year be good? Will it be bad?
Who is to say.
All I know is that it will be different and that can’t be a bad thing.