You know when you wake up in the morning and you find yourself cocooned in that perfect spot with the blankets wrapped just so and the mattress formed snug around your still sleeping body? That’s what I call the sweet spot. And it is so comfortable and so perfect-seeming and it seems so inviting to just stay right there in that sweet spot all day long. Except the problem is, if you stayed there, then you wouldn’t know what was waiting for you outside of that bed. You wouldn’t know what incredible things might happen just moments after crawling out of the sweet spot. And so most of us, every day, make the decision to crawl out from the sweet spot to see what is waiting for us beyond it.
As I teacher, I find myself balancing at that moment. The moment where you make the decision to crawl out of the sweet spot to see what is waiting beyond it.
I have been a teacher for eleven years. For the past nine years, I have taught fifth grade. And this year, I had the absolute pleasure of teaching only literacy to two groups of fifth grade students.
In the past nine years, I have gotten pretty good at what I do. I have found a way to make my classroom work for my students and for myself. I have made children feel loved and cared about and good about themselves. I have found ways to connect my teaching of reading and writing to the world outside of the classroom. I have found ways to help students push themselves and push their thinking. I have found meaning and purpose in our learning and I have helped my students to find this meaning and purpose as well.
In other words, I have found my sweet spot. I am good at what I do. And it is so tempting to stay there. To linger in the comfort. To stay wrapped up comfortably in what I know. To stay far away from too much risk and too much challenge. To keep myself protected from vulnerability and the chance of failure. It is so tempting to stay there. To stay where I am.
But the thing is, I know that there is more out there. I know that if I can force myself to crawl out of the sweet spot, to feel the cold, harsh reality that is beyond what I know, then I am going to end up in a better place. And more importantly, my students are going to end up in a better place as well.
For the past week, I have dipped my toes in the world beyond my sweet spot. I have bravely (from the safety of my own home) started to explore the world of Twitter. There, I have been introduced to ideas that have inspired and terrified me. There, I have found people like Kristen Ziemke and Pernille Ripp who have shown me that there is so much more to teaching than just reading and writing. I have found the possibility of using technology to connect our students to the world outside of our classroom so that they can grow up to be true global citizens who work to make this world a better place. I have found that it is possible to be more excited about what I do and to help make the kids more excited about what they do each and every day that they come to school.
And it is scary and overwhelming to realize that there is so much more that I can be doing. And it is also thrilling and exciting and inspiring and rejuvenating.
Because the truth is, I could probably just keep doing what I have been doing for the rest of my teaching career. And no one would call me a bad teacher. My students would still love me and their parents would still be grateful for the work that we did together in the classroom. I could stay in that safe and comfortable sweet spot, but I want more. I want more for myself and I want more for my students. And knowing that there IS more, is a wonderful thing.
So as this school year comes to end, I find myself in a very reflective place. I find myself hovering over that decision of whether to stay comfortably in my cocoon or to push myself out. And I hope, with all that I have, that I can push myself out of the sweet spot into a more exciting and inspiring way of living and teaching.
And I hope to document that journey here. In all the honesty that I can muster. With all the vulnerability that I can manage. And I hope that I can find others along the way who can help inspire me to keep pushing. I hope that I can connect with others who have walked this path before me and who can help to show me the way toward something better. I hope that I can find others to support me when I consider crawling back into the world of how things were before. I hope that I can find the needed support to do the things that I cannot even begin to imagine doing.
So feel free to leave words of wisdom. Ideas. Advice. Warnings. All of that and anything else you can think of. Because what I know, is that I am not alone. I know that I am not the only who has started to feel as if what I am doing just isn’t enough. I know that I am not the only one who has started to feel as if my students deserve better. I know that there are so many of us who dream of being the kinds of teachers that we know it is possible to be, even if we aren’t quite sure how to get there. So maybe if we work together, we can collectively crawl out of our sweet spots and face a day that is better than we, or our students, even imagined it could be.