Courage Over Comfort

“I don’t want to fail”…”I don’t want to make a fool of myself”…”I don’t want to be embarrassed”.

These are some of the phrases that seem to be blocking a lot of people from a lot of great. These statements and the like are what Susan David calls “dead people’s goals”. Why? She explains in Emotional Agility that “the only people who never feel discomfort for having made fools of themselves are-you guessed it- dead.” Wow! That is pretty in your face, but so true. As living beings, we are faced with uneasiness, but what matters is what we do with it. Do we limit ourselves from the fear of unknown or do we lean in?

I am a huge advocate for the latter. I have been lucky to bear witness to the magic that happens when individuals choose to risk. David continues; “We need to choose courage over comfort so that we keep growing, climbing and challenging ourselves…”.

“If we aren’t growing, we are dying and we are all too young for that. Our students are counting on us to be alive, really alive, for them.”- Cori Orlando

This idea brings to mind something that I speak and write about often: #failforward. What does this mean? It means that when we choose to take risks,  we are going to fail. But when we do so, let us find the learning and use that as we grow forward. I can think of many of my own moments and the numerous stories that others have shared with me, but I thought it would be more powerful to share someone’s journey from the viewpoint of an observer.

One of my first encounters with this first-grade teacher was when our district decided to offer supplemental material money in lieu of using the outdated workbooks for ELA, four years ago. For many, those workbooks were a staple in their classrooms. I was trying to support this teacher in making this transition and she was scared. What were her students going to use to practice writing and reading? What would the classroom management look like without these independent activities? There were a lot of unknowns for her, but by the end of that year, she had started experimenting with new strategies. Not all were successful, but the fact was she was taking risks and growing.

As she began the next year, she was “workbook free” and jumped into a station rotation model called Daily 5 to which she continues to this day. Throughout this process, she also began participating in our weekly Twitter chats, getting more and more out of her comfort zone. Within those chats, we often talk about risk-taking and failing forward. I remember one of her comments, clear as a bell-“I don’t want to mess up my students.”.

dare greatly

I created these plaques to give out to teachers in our district to encourage risk-taking.

She, like so many others, put in so much effort and so much heart to do right by her students. It’s not that she didn’t want to try different, she was afraid if she “messed up”, it would be detrimental to them. This led to many talks about the benefits of “daring greatly” and “taking risks”.

Fast forward to earlier this year. She went through our district training to receive a Chromebook cart for her class. These devices were new for her and her students-implementing them was a huge leap. But guess what? It didn’t stop her. In fact, she sent herself to CUE Rockstar Primary to learn more. I was lucky enough to join her on this journey. Here is the funny thing, after the camp, she shared something that I said in my sessions that resonated with her:

“Just try things…you won’t break the devices, you won’t break Google and you won’t break the children”.- Cori Orlando

That is what stuck with her. Boy, talk about a switch flip! I am happy to report, that she has taken off and become quite comfortable in the unknown and it is just amazing to watch. What is more incredible to watch are the students. They are taking risks in their own learning, they are creating and they are owning their own learning.

Why am I sharing this teacher’s journey? Because I believe there is power in sharing stories. I am lucky enough to be able to walk alongside so many amazing educators on their learning journey. I get to witness the huge shifts in their mindsets and practice. They are in it, they don’t see it…but I do and I want to celebrate it.

We are in this profession for children, so we must choose courage over comfort because they deserve the best. Will it always work out? No. Should it always work out? No. I believe that there is incredible learning for all during these risk/fail processes. It is important for us to model, discuss and encourage this in our classrooms, on our sites, and beyond.

Here is my call to action: Just leap! What is that “thing” that you want to try? What is holding you back? Remember that part of living IS the uncomfortable. Let us get comfy with the uncomfy and make magic happen!


Cori OrlandoCori is a mother of two amazing children and currently works as a TOSA in Simi Valley Unified School District. She is a co-moderator for both #SVTChat and #VCHSchat. Cori has presented various sessions for CUE Rock Star, CUE BOLD as well as within and outside of her district and county. She is also a frequent blogger on her site: http://leadinginlimbo.weebly.com/  Follow her on Twitter: @CoriOrlando1

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Cate Tolnai