If only growth came easy. If only life came without death. If only purpose wasn’t passion.
I am in a season of inviting discomfort into my life. I have done this purposefully, crafting new life rhythms with the intention of growing, learning, stretching. New is good, but new is so uncomfortable to me. I love my predictable friends with shared values and expectations; I love like-minded coworkers with compatible pedagogies; I love routine with its knowable landscape. While all that is an excellent recipe for maintaining control, it is a terrible recipe for growth.
Growth is what good educators (dare I say, good humans) are passionate about. However, passion is not the watered-down Kool-Aid that gets passed around these days. Like, I’m like totally passionate about X product, like I love it. No. Passion these days is about enjoyment, but real passion is suffering. You are passionate about that for which you’re willing to be inconvenienced, discomfited, oppressed. The Latin root pati means “to endure.” If one is passionate, he is willing to endure, to suffer. We should think twice about saying we’re passionate about things.
Passion drives growth because passion drives change. And yet change wraps itself in discomfort, a bitter flavor to the unaccustomed tongue. You can’t change if you’re comfortable. Educators know this. Education is meant to be uncomfortable (not in the bed-of-nails kind of way, but in the this-is-foreign-territory kind of way). Everyone who's entered a gym has heard it, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” This is where passion steps in.
Educators are passionate about their subject matter, maybe even passionate about education as a whole, and the aim at every level of education seems to be to convince children to become scholars by offering them our passion. That is glittering gold. Educators make suffering look fun. This passion of educators can create a chemical reaction in students, catalyzing change in hearts, in minds, in spirits and consequently inspiring growth.
Education inspires growth through constant change...which is a nice way of saying that scholars are rarely comfortable. There is an expectation of discomfort in every scholar’s life. Continual visions and revisions, unpredictable rhythms, new and uncomfortable situations abound in school. Remember all the stress of the lunchroom? All the pain of answering questions incorrectly? The drama of one’s future hanging in the balance of each quiz or test or look? Heightened by the irrational hormones and hyperbolic emotions of teenage existence, discomfort is the scholar’s norm. And they grow. Because discomfort fertilizes the soil.
In fact, scholars cannot grow or learn if they are not willing first to confront the unknown through humility and curiosity. Scholars must be humble enough for it to occur to them that they may not know everything and must be curious enough to wonder what others know. Learning then starts with attitude and character: education happens when one is willing to move outside of oneself, outside of what’s comfortable and controllable and “me” to what’s scary, new, “other.”
So, when did adult lives become about rejecting everything we invite our scholars into? Probably when American culture started preaching that comfort is our safety, our goal, our happiness. Quick, they urge us, back to the routine, back to the known, back, back, back, the unknown is uncomfortable and dark. But sometimes the darkness of the unknown is just a wardrobe inviting you into Narnia, where you can grow into an expansion of your given identity.
Studies confirm that the secret to longevity and maintaining mental acuity as we age is actually novelty--learning, trying new things, driving a new way home from work, downloading a chess app even though you aren’t good at it, and interacting with people. People--because they aren’t you--will help you stay young. Those inconvenient interruptions, those confusing conversations, those perspective shifts, all help to create synaptic connections that keep us from dulling. Maybe this upcoming holiday season is just the time to attempt heroically a little change. For that little change may produce a little growth, and as we all know a little growth is no small thing.
Let us run toward discomfort. Let us engage with radically diverse ideas. Let us confront our own comfort. Let us become passionate about growth. It can start small. It may end big--with the preservation of your health and, if all goes well, the expansion of your soul. For this week, we have had one confirmed COVID 19 case. Those who have been impacted were contacted and told their period of isolation. We must change our behaviors if we want to keep everyone safe. Please remember to use our online COVID-19 reporting tool. I hope you enjoy the Thanksgiving Break and have the opportunity to truly expand your soul. It has been quite uncomfortable this year but I know that we all are experiencing some type of growth. Let us bloom where we are planted!