Sunday, September 27, 2009

Willing to be Disturbed

It’s an interesting point that Will Richardson makes when he speaks about how changes in schools are acknowledged, but the difficulty most schools have in implementing is change itself. “We have to be willing to let go of our certainty and expect ourselves to be confused for a time.” Much is said about preparing our students for change, but so many of us resist change even when we know it will benefit us. I like when the author ask the question, how willing are we to be disturbed? It challenges our comfort zone, shakes the tree a bit and forces us to take chances in learning, not only with our students, but in ourselves as well.
I remember years ago I was working for a local community counseling agency that had a contract with the local secondary schools to provide on site classes for “high risk” students in decision making skills. I was assigned to the local middle school. The first day I was greeted by the principal who informed me that I will need to monitor my students very closely, because I they needed to follow the rules or not be allowed to participate in my class. I asked where my classroom was located and he said he didn’t have one for me, but I would be floating classroom to classroom each day. This wasn’t acceptable since I felt these students needed a class they could call their own, so I asked if there was any space available that wasn’t being used. He showed me a large gutted bathroom that was empty and not used. The room was tiled from floor to ceiling. “I’ll take it” He thought I was crazy, but agreed to let me do what I wanted with it. Make a long story short, I had a local carpet shop donate large pieces of scrap carpet and adhesive and one Saturday afternoon my students and myself covered the entire room, walls and floors with carpet creating a soothing, quite room where these students could call their own. They named it “Groups Cove”, because they said it made them feel safe.
I think this became an good example at this middle school about not only moving out of one’s comfort zone, but having a better understanding of how some of our fears and misconceptions about change. By the way, many of those “high risk” students became successful “peer counselors” the following school year.
The need to redefine ourselves is necessary, but as Richardson reminds us, is hard. Technology and change may too be that “high risk” student who many may hope succeeds, but usually expect to fail. But with those challenges, we are given the opportunity to teach as well as learn ourselves. “Your classrooms are learning labs; we want you be exploring, looking, analyzing…” Let’s make every classroom a “Groups Cove.”

1 comment:

  1. The comfort zone is sooo difficult to leave! New technologies, being wrong, and making mistakes that might have parents and administrators angry are reasons we often don't take the risks. I liked your middle school experience. I'm hoping this class will help me feel more comfortable in far out of my comfort zone.