Monday, July 22, 2013

Out of the Comfort Zone

Often when I run, ( and the running isn't that often ;-) ) I think about how I am not a natural runner, how I run because it pushes me out of my comfort zone, towards a feeling of accomplishment when I do something that a) I don't really enjoy b) I'm not that good at c) I feel a bit awkward with.
So why on Earth, would I run? Precisely for those reasons.

I run because it's another good way to exercise, along with Zumba, bootcamp, and cardio kickboxing. I run because when I do it reminds me of my students and how we often put them out of their comfort zones. This isn't a bad thing; in fact, I think it's critical to raise the bar, but so important to look at how we do it. 

Do we ask students to perform tasks at a pace that sometimes doesn't work for them, before they might be ready, before they've "warmed up?"  Do we compare them to the "sprinters" and the "distance runners" when actually they're just beginning to learn to run? Heck, some are just at the "learn to walk" phase, never mind running. 

The point is, we know that we're supposed to differentiate, but sometimes we only do that for the extreme cases, the kids who have IEPs, the kids who have the labels I despise so much but realize are necessary to get support services.

 Do we give the student who simply needs more wait time that pause before we move on and let another student answer? Do we make that wait time part of our classroom culture?

Do we allow enough talking time before we expect kids to sit down and actually produce writing?

I ask these questions because as I run, I play games with myself to increase my motivation, as well as my stamina. I give myself permission to walk if I need to. I set goals to run to that next yellow sign, black truck, house with the pink flowers. I scaffold myself and try to listen to what I need. Honestly, I absolutely hate the first 2 miles and though intellectually I know it will get better, I need to trick myself to keep going so I can get to that place when it gets easier. 

Maybe students are similar in their need for such tricks?

The joy of mastering a goal is even greater when we know it was a tough one to achieve. Why not help our students discover their own strategies to persevere when the going gets tough? 

Reflection is a practice I strive to include more often so that my students make such discoveries. I am curious, as I write this post, how you ensure that your students make these connections about what helps them achieve their goals, soaring or crawling through the tough stuff!

Please share so we can all learn from each other. 

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