HAVE YOU EVER been in a situation where you look around and think, "How did I end up here?" I have that feeling almost constantly. I was experiencing it BIG time tonight. After school today, I attended an event called "Digital Innovators". I guess I shouldn't say attended it. Actually I was there to speak, so that might be why I was plagued with what one of my teacher friends calls the Emperor-Has-No-Clothes Syndrome.
I was surrounded by some the most impressive and intelligent teachers you could ever meet, and I wasn't there to learn from them, but to stand beside them and speak. It is unnerving. I kept waiting for someone to say, "Um, you need to sit over there."
I don't want you to think, I've got some sort of negative self image -- it isn't that. It is more the idea that I'm an ordinary person, experiencing and ordinary life and the most ridiculous things keep rolling my way. I can think of tons of other people who could be standing in the same spot I am standing in -- many of them more deserving, and yet I am here. I keep waiting for someone to figure out that most of the time, I'm just trying to keep my head above water.
Okay. True story. My whole life I've been a worrier -- "what about this" or "what if THAT happens" or "How will I do this THING" -- my brain has always been filled with these things, and it sort of paralyzed me from time to time. I would sit, rather than jump in. I was an "I'll just watch" kind of a person. And then one day, as I was getting ready to attend my sixth funeral in 16 months, I thought, "What am I so worried about?"
I started saying yes. I say it a lot now. Yes, I'll go ahead and try this new thing. Yes, I'll look into that. Yes, I'll send that email, text, tweet -- I said thank you to strangers who run giant companies because their product has had an amazing impact on my students. I said yes to my students project ideas even thought I had no earthly idea how we would pull it off. I said yes when administrators asked me if I wanted to beta test a new product, concept, or class. I said it over and over and over again. Some of things I tried went great and some of things I tried did not work at all.
A strange thing happened though, I began to relax. I began to tell people, even my students, "Let's try this and see if it works. It might not." An amazing ripple effect began -- my students began to try new things, too. If it went great they got excited and when it failed they didn't freak out. "We'll have to change things." They would say. A beautiful open cycle of testing and modifying and testing began to happen. I stopped hiding my failures, and they stopped hiding theirs. There was this beautiful moment when one of my third graders told a classroom visitor who had asked what they do when something doesn't work right, "Oh, that's good. Mistakes helps us figure out what we need to do next." I swear I didn't pay the kid to say it. I didn't even realize that I'd taught him that -- it happened naturally.
I don't know about you, but I am deeply flawed. I try my best, but I make mistakes, and try to learn from them and move on. I'm not tall or thin. I don't have a strikingly beautiful voice, or have an IQ that would impress millions. I am what I am. One human desperately trying to live an ordinary life in such a way that those around me are better for having known me.
"Though we are not now, that strength, which old days moved earth and heaven.
That which we are, we are; one equal temper of heroic hearts made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield." Tennyson