Teaching Opinion

Live Outside Your Comfort Zone

By Starr Sackstein — March 07, 2017 3 min read
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Anxious. Increased heart rate. Sweaty. Tongue-tied. The self-induced paranoia of failing and the maddening fear associated with disappointing people with expectations.

Believe it or not, I’m a fiercely shy person, almost pathologically so. Perhaps it doesn’t seem as much because of my online persona, but like many introverts, social media is a place I can let my personality shine without the torment of having to perform in front of people.

That isn’t to say that once I know you, I’m like that. I’m not. Comfortable, relaxed, even funny. Once my guard is down, the real me shows itself. Once I trust and feel confident, I can do anything.

Over the last few years, I’ve been getting out more.

Doing the TEDx Talk last year was an opportunity to push myself in a way that I’m most uncomfortable, public speaking. I do my best work in front of a classroom of adolescents where my guard is down and I can just be me. Adults on the other hand can be extremely intimidating.

Although I’ve spoken formally and informally at conferences for years, I’m always worried about not performing at my peak ability which is why I’m apt to really practice before I had to do formal speaking. Sessions at a conference don’t bother me as much because I see it as a more intimate experience where despite ample planning, I’m willing to abandon the plan to suit the participants, much in the same way I would a classroom.

Priding myself on treating all learners in a similar manner, I just can’t fathom the idea of people wanting to listen to me speak for extended periods of time. Eagerly, I engage an audience, by having them participate with me. Which is why the keynote I’ve been preparing for a few weeks now has got me nervous.

The content I’m familiar with... it’s my life after all, but the expectation to be inspiring is high. Regardless of how nervous I am, I won’t give up. My story is an inspiring one (or so I’ve been told) and I know that if I can even get one educator to reconsider assessment/teaching practices, then I’ve succeeded.

It may be easy to stay inside of our comfort zones and do a great job, but how will we grow. In order to do truly great things, we must continue to push the bounds of even our own comfort and persevere.

For me, living outside my comfort zone is meeting people face to face and really letting them get to know me; not just through my writing which is extremely easy for me. Ironically, I’m fearless in my writing, sharing the most intimate details on the page and not being apologetic about it. Readers call me brave all the time. But they don’t know the truth.

At ISTE a few years ago, it was hard for me to be recognizable. Not that I’m not proud of the work I do. Compliments are appreciated but awkward to accept. I’m still truly honored and surprised that what I say matters to people; that humility will never go away because every time someone connects with my experience, I’m both flattered and moved. There’s lots of stuff to read out there, so when I’m the choice, I can’t help but to be grateful.

My career has taken me a long way. Now I speakto bigger crowds. People know my story and I owe it to myself and my colleagues to bravely present myself in person as I do on the page. Once I overcome this fear, I’ll know I can do anything.

If we are ever going to accomplish the great things that need to be done in education or anywhere for that matter, we must fearlessly put ourselves out there for the better good. Forcing ourselves out of our comfort zones, we are pushed to pursue the greatest versions of ourselves and continuously grow.

Where does your comfort zone end and what can you do tomorrow to go past it? Please share

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