Being Comfortable with Uncomfortable

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: some girl walks in a room and tries out three different chairs, bowls of porridge, and beds before ultimately finding the perfect of each.

What about the teacher who tries three different methods, three different texts, and three different assessments before finding the perfect of each?

Exactly. I’m thinking what you’re thinking. Both are fairy tales.

At the same time, the battle between “rightness of fit” and being uncomfortable are at the heart of education. Think about it. There’s anxiety with any new lesson or new attempt in your classroom. Some guys even decide to blog about those steps. Meanwhile, there’s also an element of making sure the message, material, and activities fit your students.

This is a tricky balance. It’s the balance that I struggle the most to strike. It’s the balance with which I spend the most time in reflection, especially lately. I’ve been thinking so much about it that I even turned to one of my favorite terms to describe it: the Goldilocks paradox. I love rhymes.

I also love teaching public speaking and rhetoric, and this is one of the central issues discussed in that course. In fact, the term Goldilocks communication has been coined and indicates the goal of sharing enough information with an audience to maximize effectiveness while avoiding being too repetitive. Apply it to education. Students learn best when they aren’t bored by doing “repetitive” activities or hearing “repetitive” messages.

But Mr. Bennett. Mr. Bennett. Mr. Bennett. Don’t we need routines? Don’t we need consistency? Aren’t there best practices?

Yes. Let me introduce my favorite best practice for “rightness of fit”: being uncomfortable.

Go back to Goldilocks. Think about her getting in those three beds. One was just right and she fell right to sleep. That’s not a coincidence. It was comfortable. It was easy to handle. It was known. There was no need for growth or innovation. Compare that to the small bed. Imagine being a teacher and saying to Goldilocks, “figure out how to make that bed work” and seeing what would happen from there. Or that bed that was far too big? Let’s add some scaffolding and watch her grow as a person who can make that bed that seemed too much turn out to be just right.

I also really like to make crazy analogies, like comparing a statically written fairy tale character to a 21st-century learner. These are the challenges that need to be given to our students. So, of course, we first have to start with ourselves. There’s the rub. We like being comfortable. We like things that fit our personalities. We like to exist as teachers, not just learners (though the reciprocity there can never be underestimated).

So that’s why I’m here on this site and why you’ve probably found us too. You’re looking to be more uncomfortable. Maybe you’d phrase it as being comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’m going to phrase it this way: you’re right to be uncomfortable. There’s growth with you as a teacher as you handle this feeling and your students will be exactly the same.

Moving forward, as soon as next with for this particular blogger, there will be reflection and explanation of being uncomfortable. Trust me, it gets practical. I wouldn’t be around if it didn’t. And the fellow Edutryguys are practical folks. When I was rambling in the idea phase for this particular blog, Jason stopped me and asked, “Wasn’t she just a trespasser?” Aren’t we all? Don’t we all feel like interlopers in our own classroom at times? If you answered yes, you’re right. You’re right to be uncomfortable. Congratulations. You’ve won a big bowl of cold porridge. Now fix it.