Yesterday I was wavering on whether or not to go for a run outside. I hadn't run in awhile and for some reason I was concerned that I would not be able to eclipse the two mile mark. The temperature was a balmy 31 degrees and there was still a thin layer of snow covering the ground. All of the variables in play suggested I stay home. As I continued to devise excuses not to run, someone very special in my life simply said, "Just get out there."
This simple sentiment resonated with me.
I suited up for a winter run and managed to chalk up 2.20 miles. Not only did I meet the two mile goal that I usually set as the standard for going out for a run, but I managed to go beyond this mark. Despite the frigid temperatures, it was a beautiful night for a run. I nodded my head in sync as I passed other runners along the trail. I stopped for a moment to run in place as I noticed the sun setting peacefully behind naked trees. I managed to take a quick snapshot of this scene. As I ran by the pond in the middle of Haverford College I noticed a gaggle of geese sipping water from an opening in the middle of a frozen pond. All of these scenes would have been lost had I given in to a simple excuse.
As I was running I started thinking about the words shared with me minutes ago. I thought about how simple and easy she made it seem. I thought about excuses. I thought about what generates an excuse. I tried to remember what a group of geese are called. A gaggle! I thought about how funny that word is. And finally, I thought about the amazing opportunity I had to "just get out there."
As these ideas were racing through my head well beyond the pace of my feet, I considered my experience in education. So many times in my career I have wanted to share this sentiment with timid or hesitant colleagues that resist any and all emerging technologies in education and social media. So many times we want to block it out or literally block a website from sight. We hear sensationalized news stories that warn of the distractions of using social media and emerging technologies. We deem new mobile learning devices "too difficult" to integrate into class and an outlet for trouble. All of these phrases snowball into one giant excuse.
Then I thought about my profession. I am in a profession of excuses. The education system and those that occupy its classrooms have become excellent at constructing and incorporating excuses. During this past semester I even started to collect excuses from my students and considered publishing them. Similarly, I heard the same rhetoric from many -- not all -- of my colleagues. I am not trying to generalize and say that all educators and only educators make excuses, but this is the profession I am a part of daily. This is what I hear.
I want to share this simple message and use it as a vehicle for eliminating excuses from the education dialogue.
Attend a conference! Just get out there and see what these forums have to offer. There are plenty of edcamps organizing throughout the country to attend. There are two ntcamps happening in Burlington, MA and Philadelphia, PA. Educon happens every January. ISTE is coming in June. Pick one and attend. Don't feel pressured to be an active participant. Just get out there and make the connection. See what others are saying about new and emerging best practices. Simply experience something beyond your comfort zone. Be open to learning something new.
Try something new every year, every semester, every quarter with your class. Don't feel like you have to reinvent the wheel, simply place your toes in the cold, unfamiliar water. Just Get out there. Vary your classroom instruction. Allow your students to have autonomy in the classroom and to learn from each other. Give them a sense of purpose for every lesson that is taught. And make these lessons applicable to their lives and necessary for their future.
Give social media a try. Don't feel embarrassed about not knowing how to use Twitter or Facebook. It's ok to fail, but at least try. Just get out there. Understand the media your students are using daily and make the connection. Learn how to connect with educators on Twitter and explore the plethora a resources that trickle down daily. Ask questions and provoke collegial debate about the use of social media in education. Don't just follow along, but understand the medium before taking the plunge.
Write a blog post on any subject. Simply reflect on your bad day or highlight a great one. Just get out there. Don't feel the pressure of having everyone look in on your work, just write. And when you are done, feel good about it because you wrote something. Walk away from your computer and don't get fixated on blog traffic or comments. If your blog receives one visit in one day and only manages one comment, then smile. Why? Because you have made one connection. And that one connection is more meaningful than one hundred comments, a thousand page visits, or an arbitrary award badge.
Don't miss your opportunity to just get out there. If you balk, you might miss out on something amazing.