by Professor Joe Martin
It was the middle of the school year, and I was going through a rough stretch when it seemed like nothing I tried was working with one particular class I taught. I must note that although I wasn’t a beginning teacher, I was still considered a new teacher with less than three years experience.
I found myself complaining to a colleague who always seemed to possess a positive attitude no matter what the circumstances. I told him that I felt very uncomfortable about the progress of my class, and many of them seemed to be lacking the necessary basic skills to master the subject matter.
He proceeded to share a simple philosophy that has transformed, not only my teaching career, but my personal life as well. He suggested that having a challenging class like the one I had was a blessing more so than a burden. He asked me, “Has this class made you more or less creative?”
Of course, I said, “more.” He asked, “Has this class caused you to be more or less resourceful?” Again, I replied, “more.” He continued, “Has this class led you to pray more or less?” And of course, I laughed and said, “more.” And then he made his point.
He told me that the last thing a new teacher ever wants to become is “comfortable.” He said that “comfort” breeds complacency, which leads to a false sense of security. He said that whenever we get comfortable, we tend to develop a false sense of confidence (i.e., security), believing we’re in full control of a situation. Often times, this false sense of security allows us to take things for granted, including our class.
He wasn’t saying this was always the case, but I agree that if we take a closer look at it, as it relates to a marriage, it makes perfect sense. When couples first start dating, each person usually works hard to figure out what the other person likes or dislikes, and looks for creative and thoughtful ways to please the other person – no matter how difficult it may be. But what happens when we “figure out” the other person? We often stop doing the very thing(s) it took for us to win their heart in the first place.
I believe teaching can be viewed the same way. Often times, when a subject, lesson, or class becomes so easy, it’s easy to shift into a pattern of “cruise control.” We’ve all know that one veteran teacher who hasn’t changed his or her curriculum, handouts, films, and/or tests in 15+ years. This type of attitude of complacency can sometimes lead us NOT to push ourselves to a higher level of excellence.
The truth is, when everything’s comfortable, we actually believe we’re in control of things. But when things get uncomfortable, God gently reminds us of who’s REALLY in control; he is. Comfort is good, but remember, it’s not the goal. The goal is constant and never-ending improvement. Such a simple shift in our thinking can make a huge difference in our performance both in and outside of the classroom. So step outside your “comfortable teaching box” and thank God for the “tough ones.”