A recent e-mail exchange between myself and a fellow teacher prompted me to write this blog post. You all continue to inspire me on a daily basis … stay courageous!
Ever since I started this whole gamification journey I have been floored with the tremendous response I have received. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would reach as far as it has or resonated with both teachers and students in any sort of fashion the way that it has. It was a chance; a risk I was willing to take. What do we know about risks? We know that they can be great things!
Teachers from all over the world have been putting forth tremendous efforts
“Get comfortable being uncomfortable”
- Whoever said it first ;)
I will admit, I have received little to no flak from my school community. I am so blessed to have tremendously supportive students, parents, staff and administration. So supportive in fact, here is a picture of my superintendent, playing the role of an orc commander, getting smacked with a sword (pool noodle) by a student during our end game last year! How much more support can one ask for?
The answer is simple; they are not willing to be uncomfortable! The whole premise of gamification is to be uncomfortable. It challenges your conventional thinking, challenges your standard classroom designs and challenges the traditional notion of what education could be! We have grown so comfortable with education that those who planted their roots in the traditional refuse to acknowledge any sort of advancement.
The story that prompted this blog came from a teacher, I’ll keep them nameless out of respect, who asked me what to do with a set of aggressive parents. This teacher went full bore on gamification this year. Teaching a few different grades, they began to piece together a story of competition and challenge. Some students playing the role of good and others bad. Created their cards, wrote their quests and worked tirelessly over the summer to revamp their programming. The results look amazing and were being well received until the decision to remove furniture and have the ability to earn it / build it came to be. This idea sent a few parents into their “zones of discomfort” and they immediately began to challenge the teacher. Being new but confident, this teacher stood their ground and asked for them to give it some early support to see how it would all play out. They continued to fight and argue, using language I would categorize as vile and disgusting, and refuse any sort of explanation. They had one idea and one idea only – get their way.
Why does this happen to us in education? Everyone has experienced education to some capacity in their lives so everyone in turn has an opinion. When you change education, the tradition it is rooted in changes and our beloved comfort zones become tested.
The comfort zones we like are personally beautiful spaces to us. We know what we like and why we like it. When someone or something radical comes along, our guard go up. This is common. This is human. What really sets people apart though is there willingness to stop, recognize the discomfort, and sit with it. More and more, in today’s rapidly changing world, we are being asked to step outside of our comfort zones. Whether you support a specific group that is gaining attention or not believe in an idea that could impact the environment but benefit the economy, you are constantly being asked to step outside your comfort zone and see things form different perspectives. On that topic, I firmly believe that this is actually a major part of our jobs as
I wanted to write this to give you my personal vote of confidence. Know that if you receive these e-mails, answer those phone calls or listen to those rants … you are doing your job. You are taking someone and challenging them to see it thru a different lens. Even if they disagree with you, cuss you out or call you into question, you are making them think. Wait, what?
In order to start an argument, you need to know where you stand on said subject. You then argue. After you say your piece, inevitably the rebuttal will come. You then take what is said and process it. Even if the person sticks their fingers in their ears and shouts “I don’t hear you, I don’t hear you!” know that your message has made it where it needs to be. It will sit there and begin to set its roots. When it comes up, in any capacity, that person will begin to say their piece and when it again comes into question more roots will begin to set. The idea is now there and is being heard, even if it is unconscious, and it is helping erode that level of comfort and shift it into discomfort.
Remember, no matter what path you take, what pedagogy you implement, what assessment tool you use, there will always be someone who has something to say. I used to take great offense when this happened to me, until I realized what was going on. I was challenging them to get out of their comfort zone. I was telling them to get comfortable being uncomfortable. I was asking them to trust me. For some it is hard and for others it is easy. Regardless, know that you, the amazing teacher that you are, are investing countless hours and dollars and putting your vulnerability on display for your students. You are this for them and have their best interests at heart. Remind them, or anyone who disagrees with you and whatever teaching methodology you choose to apply, that is it OK to be uncomfortable. There is nothing wrong with being uncomfortable but there is something wrong with being unwilling to listen to and/or try something new. I always remind my parent and student community, if this flops we can go back to the supposed “tried and true” methods but let’s be uncomfortable together. Being uncomfortable in education is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of being willing to grow and to me, that is a sign of strength.
Remember, as people may have told you in one way or another, it take a long time to turn an aircraft carrier, you eat an elephant one bite at a time or the only way to stand up is to be willing to fall. Whatever words you choose to live by, they all boil down to discomfort. Find that discomfort, stand in that discomfort and let its lessons, whatever they may be, help you grow professionally!
I will always have your back! In education, we are better together! Ice cream and cones too ...