My Student Affairs Division recently took steps to create a Technology Committee, whose mission was to encourage and support technology use throughout the division. Interested individuals from each department got together for an organizational meeting where ideas were shared and enthusiasm seemed high. The next day a Google Doc was shared with the group that solicited ideas for the committee’s mission and goals, and called for a volunteer to be the committee chair. Out of the twelve people who had attended the meeting, only three submitted their ideas, and nobody volunteered to lead the group.
I was disheartened. I have only recently started expanding my technology horizons, but I have become passionate about the value of using social media, online apps, and cloud computing to engage students and increase productivity. I wanted this committee—I believed our division needed this committee—but I felt that I was in no way qualified to lead it. Without a leader, I knew the committee would die, so I decided to just stop wishing and hoping for something to happen and pursue other things.
Later that same day, I read a reflective blog from one of my Graduate Assistants where she related an incident that she had to manage as part of her GA duties. She had to have a disciplinary meeting with a student worker, and she was dreading it because confrontation made her uncomfortable. However, she pressed on, had the meeting, and was pleased with the results, as well as the way she handled the situation. She was gaining confidence because she had developed a “mantra” for the new year: “challenge yourself; do not stay comfortable.”
My first thought was, “Good for you, Alicia!”
My second thought was, “Oh, no.”
I hate when I try things and fail. I get embarrassed, I feel ashamed, and my sense of worth plummets. I know this is silly, and what you do shouldn’t define who you are, blah, blah, blah, but the thought of failing makes me so uncomfortable, that I go out of my way to avoid situations where this might happen. I never took Physics in high school for fear that I wouldn’t make an “A”. I never enrolled in one of my community’s writing classes for fear that people wouldn’t like my stories. I’ve always disliked this characteristic about myself. Now, I could hear my GA’s mantra echoing in my head: “challenge yourself; do not stay comfortable. Step outside of your comfort zone and volunteer to lead the technology committee.”
Lead a committee of my peers? In an area that was not my expertise? I could fail. Oh, no.
For the rest of the day I did my best to suppress that idea, and I almost succeeded in ignoring the mantra. But then I read Joe Sabado’s blog entitled “MOOC ‘Meltdown’ or a Learning Experience?” In this article, Joe suggests viewing the outcome of the “Fundamentals of Online Education” MOOC as a “learning experience” rather than a “failure”, and acknowledges the value of “accepting challenges despite the risk of failure” in order to create growth.
At this point I started hearing a tiny voice in my head that sounded like my GA’s mantra.
As I read further, Joe also provided a link to another of his articles about the value of making mistakes. Which I also read. And which convinced me that I needed to heed that voice to challenge myself, to not stay comfortable, to volunteer to lead the technology committee. Oh, no.
So now I am committed. I have volunteered to chair this committee and I will do my best to help it succeed. And if everything falls apart, I have promised myself to treat it as a learning experience rather than a failure. And who knows? Maybe while the mantra is strong I’ll sign up for that writing class after all…oh, no!