Things I can do (a really kick @$$ job at):
- Organizing any notebook
- Vacuuming and leaving the perfect track of fresh lines in the carpet
- Teaching multiplication facts
- Laminating anything that sits still for long enough
- A day of introverted alone time
- Making kids laugh at dad jokes
- Saying “yes” to almost any request made of me
- Making lists and schedules
- Avoiding potentially dangerous situations
Things I can do, but are hard and make me twitch a little bit:
- Rollerblading on anything resembling an incline
- Playing it cool on a first date with a stranger
- Ordering anything other than a vanilla latte
- Understanding most anything science related
- Cooking anything other than a scrambled egg
- A day of big groups of people (bonus panic if it is in an international country)
- Knowing I’m wrong, and asking for help
- Saying “no”
- Not having a plan
- Doing something that has even a 2% chance of not ending well
That top list of things? I have them down. I’m really good at them. They make me feel safe, they are predictable, and they are almost always a slam dunk.
That second list of things? They terrify me. They are hard. They don’t feel natural. Pit stains are almost always involved. Multiple layers of deodorant is a must, as is multiple bottles of Diet Dr.Pepper.
I would say that up until recently in my life, I’ve looked at the first list and thought: I like it here. This is where I’m going to camp out and spend a majority of my time.
I would look at things on the second list and think to myself about how I admired people who could do these things with such ease. I would look at people in my life who are adventurous and risk takers and think, “Man, good for them … but that’s not for me. I don’t get to be a part of that world.” I would also look at these things and think “how can I do whatever is in my power to avoid these things at all costs?”
What mid-to-late 20s Kristy has realized (as opposed to a more safe, reserved early 20s Kristy) is that list #1 is going to bring only a limited amount of success, connection, and resiliency. I would find myself constantly organizing, making to-do lists, and creating a perfect little bubble for myself. Did it feel good? Absolutely. Did it empower me? Not at all.
Empowerment came once I found myself in situations that actually pushed, stretched, and tested.
I realized that in order to really get to those deeper layers of feeling successful, it would involve risk, failure, and hurt. A lot of risk, failure, and hurt. We’re taking scraped up knees, meals gone terribly wrong, and more often than not a bruised ego and hefty doses of humility.
The first time I got on roller blades this year because a friend convinced me I could do it? I hated most of it. Yet, I also felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and determination.
Those times I went out on terrible online dates (picture: dude drinking 6 beers in 45 minutes) and they ended up rejecting me & shining a light on some of my deepest insecurities? Horrible. Yet, I also learned in these moments to let the voices of truth in my life be louder than I’ve ever let them be before.
Speaking up for what I need rather than being a self-proclaimed people pleaser? Maybe even saying “no” and risk letting someone down? Even the thought of this still makes me want to run for the hills. Yet, I am finding my voice and learning to advocate for myself.
All of these risks did and still do involve a lot of hurt, frustration, fatigue, confusion, and even anger. But they also came with some of the biggest rewards of triumph and empowerment. Triumph and empowerment that weren’t coming from staying in my lane and creating a predictable, low risk world for myself.
I can’t help but think about my students and the idea of perseverance. As a teacher I am not doing them any good by only providing them with low risk scenarios in which they can easily succeed at all times.
Do I want them to feel success? Absolutely.
What I don’t want to do is only provide them with low risk, low payoff experiences. I want to help them build up a bank of experiences that are hard and scary and uncomfortable. It’s in moments like these that students will clearly see their ability to be resilient.
I don’t teach one lesson on multiplication and expect students to have mastered it. I continue to teach them and give them opportunity after opportunity to practice and sharpen their skills. Over time, their confidence in their knowledge of multiplication grows.
Similarly, I can’t just tell students to show perseverance and expected them to have mastered it. I have to teach them what that actually looks like and give them opportunity after opportunity to practice and sharpen their skill of perseverance. It is our job as adults to guide kids through hard things that might not immediately bring satisfaction and success.
What does this look like in 3rd grade? It looks like getting assignments that are occasionally a little too hard, being assigned a seat next to someone different from you, having to own up to your actions and give a real apology, learning brand new content, and getting a zero when you don’t do your work. It is learning to stand up for what’s right, cheer for the accomplishment of others, not go with the crowd, accept consequences, own your mistakes, and give 100% even when something seems boring.
It means seeing these struggles as opportunities to grow, rather than opportunities to complain and retreat. It means embracing what’s hard and celebrating new perspectives.
It is our job to model for students (and let’s be real: for one another) what it looks like to try new things, navigate unpleasant scenarios with grace, and learn from our struggles. We can’t sit around in our comfort zones and expect courage.