I made the decision to take an online class this summer. It was a carefully considered choice, one which would push me personally and professionally, and one that I knew would lead to growth in both of those areas of my life. I did not fully think about my discomfort with much of the class – the format, getting to know new teammates each week, and considering ideas that are far from my everyday experience at work or at play.
As I write this, I am exactly halfway through the course. I have met people I would never have met otherwise. I’ve entertained ideas about subjects I’d never heard of or read about. I was asked to consider questions and reveal aspects of myself that I typically hold on to tightly. It has been a great experience and a scary one as well.
As I reflected on this class and all that it entailed so far, I was reminded of what we ask of students each day. We ask them to be uncomfortable without fail, and often without giving them the choice to avoid this discomfort. We ask them to work with others who they don’t know, don’t like or who we know won’t contribute fully to the group experience. We ask them to speak up, listen well, be creative, get along with others at all times, and do a good job no matter the subject or their interest in the work. We ask them to be superhuman. Most of us, as adults, would not take on that challenge. Most of us would try to negotiate another way to do things or ask for assistance at every turn. Some of us might even opt out of an experience if it did not have some comfort and familiarity built in.
There are things we do each day that allow us to have choices, and some things we simply have to do. Children must attend school. Time in school can be spent in a variety of ways that involve student choice along with the “have tos.” How do we want students to spend their time in school and recall their days in school in the future? Will they remember the learning, challenges and enjoyment, or the intense discomfort and unknowns? Balance is the key to building the strength needed to learn and grow.