Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Teacher as Student

There is a photograph hanging up on the front wall in my classroom. It's a picture of me in a sundress, holding an oar, smiling proudly. I had just finished my first stand up paddle board lesson last summer and my legs had almost stopped trembling when my friend snapped the photo.
I turned 50 last year and was determined to try new things and get out of my comfort zone. This was certainly out of my comfort zone!
It was an interesting morning on the river. My friend and I were alone with our instructor, a gentleman a few years older than us. I was acutely aware of my role as student in this situation. He spoke with us at length, then started to demonstrate. I've long thought I was a visual learner, and seeing him helped much more than listening. I had a lot of questions, and he patiently answered them. I had a lot of self doubt, but he didn't manage to assuage those feelings. Still I paddled on, doing my best. Miraculously I managed to: 1. not fall off the board, and 2. have a really great time!
I've kept that photo as a reminder of how terrified I was to learn something new, and how good I felt when I learned it. It was my hope that having that experience would make me a better teacher somehow. These kids have to get out of their comfort zones every day as they learn new things. They have to trust me and take risks. They have to hope they don't fall off their boards and if they do, they have to know that I will be there to pull them back up and keep on showing them the way.
At the beginning of the year I pointed the picture out to my students. I look at it every once in a while to remind myself of what it felt like to be out there, floating on the river, a little scared, a little excited, and needing the guidance of my teacher.


  1. What a perfect last line to tie back to the beginning of the story and capture all the hope and terror that it is to learn! Your students are lucky to have a teacher so willing to take risks and be vulnerable!

  2. What a great reminder. I wonder if the learning environment is always about trying something new if the idea of a 'comfort zone' shifts?