I have found something amazing and new (to me) to do in our own backyard as well! Two sleepy Saturday mornings ago, my husband talked me into taking my son's mountain bike and going riding with him on the trails around West Point Lake. I went because he asked me to. He said I would love it, but I was not convinced.
After a quick tutorial on changing gears, we were off. We started on the easiest trail. I hesitantly rode down the hills, with a little hoopin' and hollerin' and a death grip on the handle bars. When we came out on the other side of that first trail, my husband said I had passed my first test. "You did a lot better than I thought you were going to do." With that success and that little sparkle of feedback, I was hooked.
I went again the Sunday after that. That week, my husband took my hybrid bike up to Golden's and got nobby tires put on. I rode again last Saturday and Sunday. I absolutely love it.
As I was preparing for this week at work, I couldn't help thinking about the parallels between my mountain biking experience and trying something new in the classroom-- writers workshop, for example. I began a list of tips that work for beginning anything new-- blazing the trails in your classroom or out in the woods.
1. Bring a friend along. I never would have gone out to take that first ride by myself. It's much more fun to begin something new with a partner in crime. Whether it's a colleague down the hall or across the county, find someone with whom to work. You gain momentum by bouncing ideas off of one another. (Academic coaches are an email away!)
2. When things get rough, shift into a lower gear. Going uphill, it is imperative that you shift gears or you won't make it. (ouch) The same goes for implementing something new in your classroom. When you hit a snag, slow down, step back and take an objective look at things. You may even have to stop momentarily. Give yourself permission to do so.
3. Sometimes it's not comfortable- it does get easier. There are parts of my body that hurt as I sit here typing. I have bumps, scratches, and a very sore "seat". When you feel the proverbial bump or scratch, hang in there. You'll toughen up as you learn.
4. Push past what you think you are capable of! Step outside of your comfort zone and do hard things!
5. Ask for help.
6. Be brave.
7. Hold on tight and enjoy the ride!
It is so invigorating to try something new. When you step out of your comfort zone, push past your anxiety, and take risks, you will be newly motivated.... and so will your students. Nice side effect, huh?