Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

My past week has been filled with staff, teachers, counselors, administrators, and myself stepping outside of our Comfort Zones. We all know that when we stay in our Comfort Zone, we generally don't grow - we generally don't do anything amazing.

While I took a major leap outside my Comfort Zone this year in my new role, I have seen several others who have also ventured outside their Comfort Zones to try something new/different that is better for the students. Teachers are diving head first into the technology tools provided and exploring options to improve student learning. The secretaries are mastering the new Teacher Ease student management system, the lunch staff is owning and adapting the Teacher Ease lunch program to make it work for our district, and administrators and parents are exploring the instant notification features built in to the Teacher Ease system regarding student grades, discipline, attendance, and lunch balance.

Today I was bludgeoned with the Comfort Zone concept. In addition to working with a teacher who is committed to making some overhauls to the way the courses are taught and hearing about a teacher who is taking on the challenge of creating a course from online lessons combined with classroom activities, I also stumbled upon Tom Whitby's article "Comfortable Baby Steps?" As I began reflecting on how I have seen several people in the district step outside their Comfort Zones, the episode of Covert Affairs that I was watching with my wife was based on stepping outside your Comfort Zone for the greater good.

Part of my commitment to you was to also provide technology tools that will make it easier for you to succeed. This week I am promoting Trello. Even though I have been stepping outside my comfort zone, I needed something to keep me organized and grounded. Trello is a wonderful productivity tool that can be used by an individual or by a collaborative group to organize "to do" lists, assign tasks, check off completed tasks, and discuss options to complete tasks.

For the past two years I have been loosely using the free tool Trello with my yearbook staff to collaborate on tasks to meet publishing deadlines as well as with the teachers leading the global Flat Classroom project NetGenEd. In the past two weeks, I have been heavily relying on Trello as a daily "to do" list, a reminder of ongoing tasks, and completed tasks. I access Trello frequently using my iPhone and iPad, but may access it also from a web browser on my laptop or through the app in my android tablet. Last night I let my new yearbook staff know that we will use Trello as a collaborative tool to keep us on track in the production of the yearbook. My favorite side note of Trello is that you can sign up for it using your Google account or just use your email address to sign up. Today, I showed a colleague how I use Trello to stay on track so I make sure I prioritize tasks and complete all the tasks I need to complete.

While Trello is a cool productivity tool, there are others out there that have various appealing functions. Please add a comment about your favorite productivity tool. Stepping outside your Comfort Zone to improve student learning is awesome, and finding a productivity tool that helps maintain sanity is also essential.

One of the areas that I have forced myself to step outside of my Comfort Zone is the area of sharing. I, like many other educators, feel uncomfortable sharing my lessons, pedagogy, expertise, and favorite tools because I fear that I will be perceived as pompous or pretentious. However, since I have joined several global communities of educators, I have found that sharing my information is just as important to others as the information that I glean from them. I am amazed at the down-to-earth nature of the "famous" educators. We are all on the same team and have the same goal of doing what is best for our students. We appreciate tips from others, and they deserve to benefit from our expertise as well. In future posts I will discuss ways to share your expertise with your immediate colleagues as well as other educators.

What are you doing to step outside your Comfort Zone? What tools are you using to maintain or increase your productivity? Share in the comments below.

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