Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tubing on the lake, and how it mirrors teachers

Last weekend, I noticed a big change in my daughter and her attitude toward tubing.  My daughter is 14 and has always enjoyed the lake home my brother-in-law owns.  There is a pool which she enjoys with her friends and family and of course there is the lake.  We have gone on many boat rides and some of them have involved tubing behind the boat.  Her confidence in tubing has progressed throughout the years and this progression made me think about how tubing is like teaching.

The early years
My daughter's first tubing experience was with me.  She and I sat in the tube together when she was very little and I remember her falling asleep in my arms.  She was obviously very comfortable with her daddy right there with her but it wasn't a very risky ride.  She was relaxed to the point of sleeping.

This comfortable state is one we find ourselves in from time to time.  It's easy to do those things we know are safe, but sometimes this can put our students, and us, to sleep.  The students are in need of engaging teachers and the lessons they provide.  But that can be difficult because it's risky and unknown.

She's growing up
As my daughter has grown up, she no longer needed me in the tube with her and I became her driver.  She didn't tube alone yet.  She would tube with her cousins and friends but she didn't like going outside of the wake.  She smiled and laughed and seemed to be enjoying herself, but the risk involved in going outside of the wake was something she wasn't ready for just yet.

This testing of the waters (no pun intended) is the beginning of taking risks with our lessons and our students.  It can be scary, but it is exciting at the same time.  We notice our students becoming more engaged in our lessons and have an extra sense of pride in our new ideas.

Last weekend
My daughter and her cousin enjoyed the tube rides they had last weekend.  They are just like sisters and enjoy each others company.  And when her cousin suggested going tubing, my daughter was "all in".  The tube ride lasted for nearly a half an hour, and most of the time was spent outside of the wake!  That was a huge step for my daughter and, aside from being a bit sore, she had a fantastic time.  She took a risk with someone she trusts and I'm sure that it will lead to her taking more risks on her own.  I was still her driver, but the tow rope seemed longer and she was more willing to step out of her comfort zone.

This risk taking, with someone she trusts, is something we can all do as educators.  Trying something new with a colleague and actually sharing the risks involved can make the risk taking not seem so scary.  And the risk doesn't need to be that big to change the engagement level of our students.

Next steps
As the summer winds down, I'm sure that my daughter will be more confident in her tubing opportunities.  She might try tubing on her own, or try it with her friends, or maybe she won't.  Whatever the outcome, she feels more comfortable taking a risk that she wasn't comfortable with even just two months ago.  But she tried something new and she enjoyed it.

These next steps are the same for educators.  Maybe we'll try something new on our own or maybe we'll try something with a colleague or maybe we won't.  The progression and comfort with taking risks and trying something new is different for all of us.  If we don't feel comfortable taking risks alone, grab a colleague and try something new together.  It just might be the spark you need to get your school year off to a great start!

So what are you going to do to get your students, and yourself, outside the wake?