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Monday, December 30, 2013

In 2014…Leave Your Comfort Zone!

In a previous post, 9 Tips for Teaching in the Wild, I wrote:
Be the lead learner. ... If you think you are going to push kids to grow and take risks, ask yourself when was the last time you took a risk and tried to learn something new and challenging.
You are already good at many things…staying in your comfort zone is…well, it's comfortable. As humans, we like being comfortable. It feels nice. But GROWTH requires a step outside of that zone. 
We've all seen this:

But one of my teachers explained it to me like this:
There is a range, between the comfort zone and the "panic zone," where we are open to learning. In describing Habit 1 of his 7  Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey uses a similar graphic, with "area of influence" in the center and "area of concern" in the outer ring. Proactive people focus on their area of influence and, by so doing, that circle actually grows larger. 

I believe it is the same with learning.When stepping outside the comfort zone becomes habit, the learning zone increases. We become more comfortable with the feeling of growth, so that it fails to bring on panic. We become better learners.

Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can't Ignore You, calls this deliberate practice. He says that deliberate practice, which involves regularly stretching beyond one's comfort zone is what distinguishes the good from the great. 
"If you just show up and work hard, you'll soon hit a performance plateau beyond which you fail to get any better…Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that's exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands…Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration."
In the new year, let's resolve to become better teachers by making learning a habit, the kind of learning that stretches us and feels uncomfortable. I believe this is the most important and vital thing you can do to become a better teacher. 
What will you learn?

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