Outside Of My Comfort Zone

This has been the most incredible week! It’s a week that I’ll never forget! I’m so overwhelmed by all of the emails, tweets, and kind words I’ve heard this week that I have a lump in my throat and feel as though my heart could actually burst. I’m so fortunate to have such amazing colleagues, parents, and friends (both online and offline) — thank you!

In between conferences today, I’ve spoken to many people (teachers, administrators, and parents), and as they ask me about the week, here’s basically what I’ve said, “The week was AMAZING! It was surreal! I’m glad to be back to some normalcy though. I missed school!” This week was way outside of my comfort zone.

The truth is that I really struggle in unstructured, social situations. I don’t like mingling. I find it hard to start a conversation with people that I don’t know. And in most cases, I’m actually a very private person. I don’t like being in the spotlight. This week was the exact opposite of that!

I had to get over that this week, and this was a very hard thing to do! Here’s what I did to help:

  • I tried to stay with my mom. She’s great at mingling, and she’s wonderful at talking to people (that she knows or doesn’t know). I wish that I could be like her! She was my guest for the week, and having her there was fantastic! Not only did I get to share an amazing experience with such a special person, but I also knew that she was there to support me, and this made all of the difference. After she started conversations, I could join in, which helped make me feel more at ease!
  • I talked myself into taking a risk. I set goals for myself, just like I do every day at school! My goal for each social event was to go up and initiate at least one conversation. Before I went to chat, I thought about what I was going to say, and then I did it! Yes, it was hard, and sometimes it was awkward, but I met my goal! This made me happy!
  • I found “friends.” One of the great things about an experience like this one is that you’re probably not going to be the only person that feels this way. I quickly found a couple of other award winners that felt like I did, and we enjoyed socializing together! I made some amazing connections and learned a lot from these conversations (especially in regards to Social Studies), and I felt so much more comfortable as well!
  • I laughed (and joked) a lot! There were lots of photographs happening this week, and I do not like getting my picture taken! (In fact, last year, I even managed to make it through the School Picture Day and Photo Retake Day without getting one done. Shhh … don’t tell! :)) I think it’s because photographs (especially in this situation) put you back in the limelight, and I struggle with this! So to help me feel more comfortable, I made LOTS of jokes! I can be quite sarcastic, and thankfully, the photographer and media coordinator found me amusing. There were many “let’s tease Aviva” moments, but these made me feel more comfortable, and that was a good thing!
  • I reminded myself that we all had to step outside of our comfort zone in one way or another this week. A great example of this is when I heard the number of award winners speak about how concerned they were about the “five minute teacher talk.” Many spoke about rarely talking in front of colleagues. For me though, presentations are what I do! I love to talk with teachers, and I especially love talking about my fantastic students! Realizing that we all have our strengths and needs (even as teachers) was a good way to help me get through the more difficult times!

So when I arrived home late last night, I saw a tweet about this article in The Hamilton Spectator. I so appreciated my principal, Paul Clemens’, lovely words. (I’d thank him again, but I promised him — somewhat — not to! :)) What really caught my attention about this post was that the “students plan to recognize [me] in an assembly on Monday.” What?! I emailed Paul and explained that I’m a very “private” person, but I guess that this assembly is already planned. 🙂 It looks as though I’ll be doing some more risk-taking come Monday. I can do this — right

How do you step out of your comfort zone? What are the benefits in doing so? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!


19 thoughts on “Outside Of My Comfort Zone

  1. Thanks for sharing your internal struggles and thought processes. I love how you “put on the table” what many of us struggle with … whether it be challenges in education or personal challenges. Great teaching for kids too! The fear and discomfort is often there as we break new ground but the results are so rewarding. I applaud your ability to face your fears with a smile … and a little sarcasm 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment, Paul! Blogging for me helps me get my thinking and feelings out … and that’s a good thing! 🙂 As teachers, I also think it’s important to show our students how we face difficult situations, as hopefully then, students will learn how to do the same.

      As for Monday, I’m hoping a smile will work. I’m a little more concerned about the possibility of tears … I can be big with emotions! Here’s to hoping for brief and funny! 🙂


  2. Aviva I find it hard to believe that you are a private person. For all your tweets and willingness to help I took you for an outgoing person. I think you are doing exactly what you need to do, address the problem and try new things to conqueror your fears. For me talking to people is what I love doing. I am a extroverted person, so much that my wife who is the exact opposite hides in the corner. However, writing and trying to convey my thoughts in writing is very hard. What I have been trying to do is just write more and forage through the mistakes. I have recently started the storify, thanks to you, finished my masters (156 pages later). It is still very hard for me but I never stop learning and I think that is the key, never stop learning and growing. Thanks again for sharing all your wonderful thoughts and being so open.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jonathan, and for sharing your own experiences too! I’d be like the exact opposite of you. Online, I’m very outgoing. I love to write and I’m eager to share all that I can in writing. I’m also very outgoing in small group situations with friends, but big crowds and groups of unfamiliar people, terrify me! I’d be like your wife hiding in the corner.

      As you note in your comment though, it’s important for all of us to step outside of our comfort zone, even if it is difficult. I applaud you for finishing your Masters (wow!!) and starting Storify (yippee!!). I can only imagine what your accomplishments will say to your students about the value of hard work and determination! Thanks for being such a role model to teachers and students alike!


  3. You are too cute. I love this blog post. I am proud of your goal setting to mingle;) I had a feeling you may run out the backdoor if you caught wind of the assembly.

    • Thanks Andrea! As funny as it sounds, my goal to mingle was one hard one to achieve. And trust me, if I thought that I could run out of the backdoor, I just might. 🙂 I so appreciate everyone’s kind words and support, but for me, Monday’s assembly may make mingling seem easy. 🙂


  4. I love this post! Everyone has there own thoughts of being out of their comfort zone, but not too many of us talk about it. Being courageous enough to put yourself out there is a wonderful example for others. Aviva, you had no reason to be worried, but you still were, which is a fantastic lesson for others. Everyone gets nervous, and everyone second guess’ themselves, but sometimes we have to have faith. Aviva, you have done some amazing things, and demonstrating to others that it is ok to be out of their comfort zone is a wonderful lesson, and actually is great for learning!

    • Thanks so much for the comment, Scott! I’m glad that this blog post could be a lesson for others, but in some ways, I’m wondering if it’s like my own little pep talk. 🙂 I find writing/blogging so cathartic, and I’m beginning to wonder if part of how I’m dealing with my own uncertainties/worries/outright panic 🙂 is to blog. Maybe this blog post will help me get through the weekend and through Monday with a smile on my face. Let’s hope!


  5. Aviva, you have made your learning – your goals, efforts and struggles so transparent. I’m glad your trip to Ottawa was such a learning experience for you, even for those socialization goals! I am with you 100%. I hate having my picture taken or making small talk too. I can understand how daunting an assembly in your honour would be. The assembly, though, is for you but it is also for the benefit of others. We have to give the people who are so proud of you that opportunity to appreciate and celebrate you. That line would be awfully long if we tried to do it one at a time 🙂 You may feel like bolting, or crying, or being sarcastic, but you need to know that you will be integral to creating a memory for an awful lot of people. And while you may not enjoy it at the time, I suspect it will be a memory that will stay with you for a long time to come too…and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that in hindsight it will be a pleasant memory. You can do it!

    • Thanks Kristi! I spoke to Paul about this assembly on Friday too, and I do realize that it’s probably even more for others than it is for me. And that makes me feel even more lucky (to think that others want to take time to celebrate this).

      As for my response, I know that sarcasm won’t work (that might be good for a small, adult audience, but not a kid one) and bolting isn’t a choice (that wouldn’t be a very professional option), but crying, well that may happen regardless. 🙂 Even your heartfelt reply has me all teary-eyed. So I guess that my goal for this weekend is to figure out how to make it through Monday without any tears … we’ll see! 🙂

      Truthfully though, while an assembly is WAY outside of my comfort zone, the fact that the staff and students would want to do this for me is something that fills my heart all over again! So this may be a stressful experience, but I know that just like the rest of this week, it’s something that I’ll never forget! Right now, I honestly feel like the LUCKIEST teacher in the WORLD!


  6. I’m so happy you went out of your comfort box to go to Ottawa. I love that you achieved some goals!! Your blogs inspire so many people by sharing your personal experiences with everyone to see. By giving your personal experience makes you relatable to so many people.

    I can do small chat. I can do pictures. I get really nervous talking in front of video’s and small or large groups of people. Something I always work on. In High School it was Drama. When I worked in daycare we had Spring Concerts and Christmas Concerts where I had to go on a stage just to say hello. Here at Ancaster Meadow I’ve had to get in front of parents whether it be for School Council or for Kindergarten Orientation Night I still get nervous. Butterflies. I have to believe I can do it. Deep breaths (as I don’t want to pass out!). Try to find a friendly face to make eye contact. Many have a hard time believing that I get nervous doing this. I chat with everyone. But I do. And I keep doing it, with a smile 🙂

    I commend you for stepping out of the box. You inspire me. I would have had knees knocking having to do what you just did. I get nervous for my own personal recognition (I get a bit warm around the collar) but I am a strong believer of giving recognition. Recognition for hard work, dedication, taking time out of one’s day to help, loyalty. So when it comes on Monday, you smile, you may cry (I may shed a few myself, my heart is always on my sleeve) and you feel proud to have yourself surrounded by so many wonderful people that encourage your growth and love you.

    You have worked so hard. You deserve this recognition Aviva. Congratulations!!

    • Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Rebecca! It definitely induced a few more tears. 🙂 I really appreciate how you shared those things that make you nervous, and how you deal with them as well. I think that we can learn so much from each other. It’s one of the many reasons that I choose to blog as much as I do!

      Yes, the personal recognition this week had me nervous as well, and it’s one of the things that truly terrifies me about an assembly on Monday. Last week’s recognition was on a much smaller scale than our 850+ students. But all of that being said, I really do feel like the LUCKIEST teacher alive to have so much support and so many people around that want to celebrate this. So I’m going to step out of my comfort zone once again and enjoy Monday … in spite of what I’m sure will be a few tears!


  7. Great post! uh oh – we’ve been busted, no secrets for Aviva! 😉

    The best thing we can do is show students what it’s like to take risks. During interviews this week, a few of my student-led conferences focused on some kids taking on more of a leadership role. Meaning – they would have to speak up and be heard more often and be willing to be in the spotlight for awhile. After all, as I said – they have good things to say! This will be difficult for the kids this year as we work towards this goal but seeing teachers, mentors, leaders and friends take steps into the limelight will be inspiring to say the least.

    And, maybe…I can teach you something for once! Being in the spotlight can be invigorating – take in the energy that the audience is sharing with you. They are willing participants who want very strongly to share a moment with you. It is much more meaningful for your audience if you are able to accept their appreciation…..so Thank You for trying. Soak it up – it’s nourishment for the soul!

    Congratulations again 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment, Stef, and for the words of advice! Thankfully the news was slipped to the paper and included in the article, so I have at least a little time to prepare myself for Monday. 🙂

      Yes, being in the limelight is something that I find really difficult, but I am always happy to enjoy special moments with others. I’m so appreciative of how wonderful everyone has been! I’m the luckiest teacher in the world to work and learn from such amazing people! I will definitely keep this in mind as I step outside of my comfort zone on Monday! 🙂


  8. I haven’t talked to you much through all of this but this post has sparked me to connect. Yes you are a private person. Here’s my however, you are also a passionate person. Your response to that Doug person about awards is why I am responding now. If you do what you do because of the students, then you do the assembly because of the students. Not because the school planned it. Not because it’s another day in the limelight. You do it because the students need it. Your admin referred to the volume in the building when he announced you had won an award. Those students were cheering for a person who was not even in the building at the time. They need to see you smile, cry and need to hear you say thanks. Remember, it’s why you do what you do.
    As for strategies for taking challenges. I love how open you were about them. We all use what we need to use to survive. If you actually used Facebook, you’d be able to read how this 40 something, who has never played hockey or skated before has stepped out of her comfort zone and joined a hockey team–that’s competitive!!! What was I thinking? Oh yes, I was thinking I need to show my children how to take a risk and try something new. They may be my flesh and blood but the philosophy is the same.
    We do what we do for the children.
    Congrats of the amazing award. You deserve it. The assembly is for the students so they can show you how happy they are.
    Smile, cry, laugh, and say thanks.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Tammy! It actually has me “smiling, crying, laughing, and saying thanks!” Thank you for helping me see tomorrow’s assembly in yet another way. Yes, I do what I do because of all of the students in that building (and outside of it) that I want to see succeed. Even when times are tough or I’m feeling frustrated, those few moments with the kids make all of the difference. It’s actually what I spoke about in my Teacher Talk on Wednesday morning, and it’s what I’ll remember when I THANK all of them (and all of the amazing teachers, administrators, and parents alike) that inspire me every day to do what I do — award or no award!

      As for your story about “stepping outside of your comfort zone,” congratulations!! What a great role model you’re being for your children. It’s a good reminder about why we all need to take risks!


  9. Here’s a thought: small talk is about showing you care enough to talk to someone about their life, their thoughts and their goals. A simple question can morph into a real conversation. That conversation starts with small talk.

    Reframing situations can help overcome them.

    • Thanks for the comment, Sue! I never really thought of that before, but you’re right: reframing situations does make a difference. I’ll think of this the next time that I have to make small talk.


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