Thomas R. Hoerr
When Is Comfortable Too Comfortable?
be pushed can
Thomas R. Hoerr is
head of school at the
New City School,
5209 Waterman Ave.,
St. Louis, MO 63108;
school.org. He is the
author of The Art of
(ASCD, 2005) and
for the Future (NAIS
How will you respond next fall when asked, “What did you do last summer?” Sure, summer is a time for many educators to catch our breath, to have a few weeks
away from the desk, and perhaps to occasionally come in late or leave early. Note that
I said “away from the desk” rather than “away
from the job.” Thanks to technology, our jobs
never leave us, and we never leave our jobs.
But the summer schedule does offer opportunities that aren’t feasible during the school year.
That begins with catching up on much-needed
relaxation, but it shouldn’t
end there. Summer is a time
not only to relax but also to
Relaxing helps us recoup
our energies, enjoy the
lighter side of life, and
reacquaint ourselves with
our loved ones. (“Remember
me? I live here, too.”) But
as necessary as relaxing is,
we need more than that.
We also need to renew. We
need to return to school
with new ideas. We need
to venture out of our comfort zones and experience the growth that we want to elicit within
Next fall, the question shouldn’t be “What
did you do last summer?” but “How did you
get out of your comfort zone last summer?” As
I wrote in my March column (“Got Grit?”),
success comes from learning how to respond
to failure. We learn more from our failures than
our successes. We need to teach our children
how to handle frustration and how to pursue
doing things that don’t come easily. And we
need to practice what we preach by getting out
of our own comfort zones to encounter some of
the frustration that is integral to growth.
Of course, summer is a time to learn skills
that directly relate to our roles. There are
conferences to attend and books to read. But
important as these activities are, they won’t nec-
essarily take us out of our comfort zones. We
need to venture away from the comfortable and
consciously test the waters of the unfamiliar.
Pushing ourselves to be pushed can yield
wonderful insights. So what might you do?