I was all in until I read “in the last two weeks.” I don’t think I’ve done anything scary in the last two weeks, although I seem to have been nervous about a few things, they were not scary enough to stay in my mind.
If I go back two months instead of two weeks, however, I did do something scary. Two something scaries (but I forgot to write about the other).
I was invited to attend a teaching retreat in the place of my dean quite last minute. I said yes with very little information other than it was a conference because I figured I had something to learn (I did!) and because it was in Midway and I love Midway and much of the rest of my family was going on the deer hunt so what did I have to lose? But when they finally got me registered in the dean’s place and sent me the materials I realized the entire conference was with faculty and I would not fit in in any way. I was scared and figured I would go and just hang back and stay under the radar, but of course such conferences are designed to connect and involve people, so sitting on the back row and keeping quiet weren’t really an option.
Fortunately for me, one of the first people I met was not faculty either. She was a spouse accompanying her husband and who, because she is a K-12 teacher, decided to attend the ice breaker activities the night before the conference started. She was very friendly and put me at ease. And truly everyone was friendly and no one shut me down or out when they realized I was not one of them. In fact some were curious about what instructional designers do and how to work together with them.
The next day in the classes I again met very interesting, open people who wanted to converse and discuss ideas and concerns and work together to find solutions. The truth is, one can learn a lot about some of the challenges of education simply by being a learner oneself, by being a parent, and by paying attention.
One of my favorite areas of concern was about why people are afraid of math. I think part of the reason we are afraid of learning at all–but particularly math–is we are afraid of getting stuff wrong. We forget that you can learn a good deal from mistakes. I think you can teach people to see mistakes in a different light and use them as tools for learning instead of stumbling blocks.
It was also good for me as an instructional designer to understand why some instructors are frustrated by outcome-based learning and it reinforced to me the importance of thoughtful instructional design. It’s something I work at anyway, but I realized that when I design with purpose it (hopefully) will feel natural and make sense even to the instructor as well as fall into place for the learner.
In any case, I met people from many fields and many countries and many religions or not religions and they were respectful and kind and fun and I had a great time.
Just another reminder that getting out of your comfort zone can be good for you.
[Day 45 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]