“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” (We Bought A Zoo).
Happy New Year! Every year in January, people make resolutions to better their lives in some way. A few years ago, I made a resolution to run more. It worked for about nine months, but didn’t become a permanent part of my life. The next year I resolved to eat a little healthier. I’m guessing you know how that ended. Some resolutions are very tough to commit to for long periods of time. The one I’m going to help you with today is much easier than a diet and exercise plan. I’m going to help you resolve to become a better teacher for the rest of your career. It’s just going to take twenty seconds of insane courage, and I promise you, something great will come of it.
Intrigued? I understand that’s a pretty big claim. Since most of you probably don’t know who I am, why would you take advice from me? The truth is, I’m very much like many PE teachers. Up until the last few years I thought small. The walls of my gym were as far as I would search for answers. I rarely used the knowledge and resources of the 31 schools in my district. The successes and failures within my small teaching space were unintentionally kept secret. The students left sweaty and happy, so I felt I was doing my job well.
Over time, I realize that my classroom didn’t look much different than it did a decade ago. My classroom management improved, but everything else seemed to be stagnant. I got comfortable. The reason I’m writing this post is because I doubt I’m the only person that has experienced this feeling. Don’t get me wrong, getting to a point that you are comfortable is a good thing. It means that you’ve worked through the tough times and figured some things out. Staying comfortable is the problem I want to address.
During Iowa AHPERD’s Elementary Teacher of the Year recognition, Justin Wiese (@MrWiesePE) shared his mantra, “I want to look back and say I taught 35 years one time, instead of one year 35 times.” That one sentence has been stuck in my mind. It’s such a powerful statement. To me it says, have the courage to try new things. You NEED to be uncomfortable.
Around that same time, I also came across this movie quote, “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” (We Bought A Zoo) This quote, in combination with what Justin Wiese said makes me feel like I’ve been given permission to feel scared, yet still be confident in my abilities to move forward.
I’ve never been more scared in my professional career than the time I wanted to try something new and asked for $10,000 to get chest strap heart rate monitors for two elementary schools. I had so many self-doubting thoughts going through my mind. I didn’t know if it would work on their tiny bodies. I didn’t know if it would take half of the PE period to get them on and off. I didn’t know if there would be additional expectations of my program because of how much money was spent. After a few deep breaths and twenty seconds of insane courage, I submitted the grant proposal. Just like the quote promised, something great came of it.
Not only did my students love the technology, it changed the way I viewed physical education as a teacher. The lessons I had taught for ten years were now being adjusted to focus on increasing heart rate during skill practice. Little by little my program was being noticed outside of my small teaching space. Both my school district and local media did news stories featuring everything that happened after that twenty seconds of bravery. Which brings me back to how this resolution is going to work.
What new things do you want to try in your classroom? How will this impact student learning? Are you willing to ask a bunch of different sources for money until it can be fully funded?
Maybe you are already at the point where you regularly try new and exciting things in your classroom. Have you ever considered sharing those things outside of your classroom? I had always wanted to be a presenter at the Iowa AHPERD convention, but that self-doubt sat in the back of my mind. Like many first-time presenters, I was scared that nobody would come to listen to my session. What if people didn’t care what I had to offer. Twenty seconds of insane courage later, I submitted my proposal.
Once it was accepted, I felt like a different person. That self-doubt started going away. Although I still felt a little out of my league because nobody knew me; and Ben Pirillo (@CoachPirillo) was presenting after me, I was still there! I had something to share and people showed up to listen. It was probably an average presentation, but it built my confidence. As an introvert, I became more comfortable initiating conversation with strangers. That doesn’t seem big, but it pays off when I started using social media to do the same thing.
For those that already teach at the local AEA, college or present at conferences, where are you going to find that twenty seconds of insane courage? I found my courage while using social media. I’m sure many of you can relate. My initial thought about signing up for Twitter was that my zero followers aren’t going to care about my jump rope unit progressions or scooter activities. I felt like I wasn’t being heard. I had a voice and I wanted to be a part of the conversation. My introverted personality had years of experience watching from the sidelines, hoping that someone would invite me in. It took me five months, but that is when I took twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery and started commenting on my favorite PE teachers accounts. When I did, Kevin Tiller (@physedreview) took the time to respond back. It was such an insignificant moment for someone with a social media presence like his, but made such a huge impact on me. I was heard! I was a small part of a small conversation. It drove me to want more!
Something great came of it. Eventually I developed the feeling that I could give genuine comments on any PE teachers account and it would be valued. Those same teachers started commenting on what was happening in my classroom. I no longer feel like I on the sideline watching, I feel like I am part of the team. When people on social media start using the term Professional Learning Network (PLN), I feel like that now includes me.
I challenge you to take twenty seconds of bravery and reach out to those #physed teachers that you admire. If you are past that stage and others are reaching out to you, please take the time to respond with genuine feedback. You may not realize how helpful your comments are to a new social media user. You could be a part of their story.
My resolution is to find a way to fit VoxerPE into my life. I gave it a try last year and quickly became overwhelmed with everything. Maybe it was because I tried it at the same time I started using Twitter. My plate was too full to do both well. I’m still waiting for my twenty seconds of courage to come so I can get back on it. I know that the people who use VoxerPE daily are in love with it. While typing this, I am having an internal struggle. Is this right for me, right now? What do I have to give up to add something new? How will I grow with or without it? Do I have twenty seconds of insane courage or embarrassing bravery today?
Stop and think for a moment. What are you going to do this year to become a better teacher? What are you going to do to step out of your comfort zone? What can you do with your twenty seconds of insane courage? Will you try something new, share an idea or exercise your voice on social media? Maybe you have been thinking about starting a YouTube channel, creating Twitter chat group, starting your own website or recording a weekly podcast. How can you have a voice? What are you passionate about?
Do you have 20 seconds of insane courage inside of you? Whatever it is that you decide, if you are willing to share your ideas, I promise you great things will come of it. Our PE community is always ready to listen
Tanner Roos is an elementary PE teacher for the Cedar Rapids Community School District, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Tanner has taught PE for 14 years, the last 7 at Hiawatha Elementary School. He attended the University of Northern Iowa and received his Master’s degree from Morningside College. Tanner is willing to try any technology in his classes. His students use both the Adidas Zone HRMs with IHT Spirit and Gopher FITstep Pro Pedometers. Come find Tanner at the SHAPE America Central District conference in South Dakota later in January.