Kids & Parents

Grow A Little: Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Being a classroom teacher for over fourteen years, I tried to encourage the students in my class to never let fear or challenges get them down. 

This idea was sometimes met with excitement and at times, with some tears.

However, I repeatedly had seen for myself that if a child adopted a mindset of working through their obstacles, fears, or mistakes, that experience of overcoming adversity empowered them to meet future fears or difficulties head on. 

They walked away with the new understanding that even though mistakes were made and difficulties faced, something positive came from it.

Whether the student was correct or incorrect was not the focus, it was the process that was the real lesson.

How quickly we forget the sound advice we give others when faced with our own fears and challenges.

I had been contemplating leaving CPS and teaching for a few years.  I had seen a shift of focus that I did not agree with, an emphasis on test scores instead of the excitement of learning. 

This shift caused an increase in anxiety in my students, coworkers, and myself. 

I knew in my gut that it was time to take a step back from the classroom.

Explore new adventures that could focus on learning for fun, without a number attached.   

However, there was one thing standing in my way…fear.

Instead of that “go get ‘em” attitude I tried to instill in my students, I found myself falling victim to the fear of leaving my safety net and taking on a new, unknown path. 

I battled the “what if’s,” with the best of them.

What if I miss being in the classroom? What if I don't know what to do? What if people judge me?

And, the worst “what if” of all: 

“What if I fail?”

When talking to family and friends about my dilemma, they reminded me of the advice I most wanted the students in my class to heed:

If you want something, you cannot let fear run your life. You need to try.

It was then, when looking on Pinterest for inspirational quotes about fear, that I came across a quote that rang true for me

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing grows there.”(Source unknown.)

It was at that moment that I decided to walk away from the comfort zone of my classroom and grow. 

I feel like for so many of us, especially children, it is easy to want to stay where we feel comfortable.

We want to forgo the uneasiness of stepping into a new challenge or experience, to dodge any possible mistakes and, to at all costs, avoid failure, but what if we changed our mindset? 

What if we taught children, and ourselves, to look at failure, obstacles, mistakes, and fear as a jumping off point instead of an endpoint?

As educators, parents, and role models, we need to encourage a mindset to grow in our children and in ourselves. 

Instead of saying, “this is too hard,” say, “this is a new challenge.”  Instead of saying, “I give up!” say, “let me try this a different way.”

Instead of saying, “I could never.”  Say, “why not?”

When you hear your child using these limiting phrases, encourage them to take a different approach.

It will help them prepare to work through their challenges and learn that in the end our failures and challenges can sometimes lead us to wonderful things.

Leaving CPS was an extremely difficult decision. There are many elements I miss, but my leaving my comfort zone, lead me in a new direction, the library. 

Working in the library allows me to share and see a love of reading that is not connected to a score.  

So don’t stay in your beautiful comfort zone, take the risk and grow. 

In the wise words of Kid President, “If at first you don’t succeed, you’re normal.”

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