commentary reflection Tyson Seburn  

Are you ready to jump?

Who said January is the time for change? For us, it’s more often a September calling. Opportunities pop up all around. When the window for change comes, do you teeter on the edge then back in where it’s safe?  This message is for everyone who is comfortably stuck and knows it.

When opportunity for motivation, inspiration or expansion knocks, take it.  Don’t be afraid. Don’t stay in your comfortable and secure rut. Don’t curb your professional (or personal) growth because you think you can’t. You know it’s not good for you.  You know it’s not good for your students.  You know it’s not good.  If you’re teetering back and forth on a decision to take a chance for something better, let me be the push you need to do it.

Mix things up
PPP is a great starting point for teachers to structure a lesson, but if you teach in this or one way all the time, you’re not maximising the opportunity for reaching all students.  You’re not giving yourself or the students the benefits of different approaches: task-based, project-based, CLIL, something different. Try activities and methods you’re not comfortable with.  Learning is not just on the students’ end.

Use unfamiliar materials
Inspiration for change can come from everywhere, not just the resources you’ve become familiar with.  Move away from sticking to the coursebook (does this even need to be said anymore?). Go to the library (or bookstore) and check out a resource you’ve never looked at before.  Find an activity you would normally overlook.  Try it out by adapting it for your context.

Collaborate with a colleague of other programs.  Learn about activities they use that works in their contexts.  Can it be modified to suit yours?  Some form of it likely can. Hearing (or better yet observing) how they do things can often be a great mode of inspiration even if what they do doesn’t directly apply.  I recently discovered novel in an hour from mainstream K-12 teachers.

Always wanted to try out 360Cities, Soundcloud or some other web tool but were always too shy? Start with it as a homework task and see where it goes from there.

Take that new job
Too many times we get too comfortable with the role we’ve been doing for so long that we can do it blindfolded and virtually absently.  You know you want to try something different yet you fear that change. What if I don’t like it? What if I can’t do it? It’s easier to stay where I am. Yes, it’s easier to give up than grow too. You never know what benefits this change will bring you, but you certainly know your comfortable rut won’t bring you any of them.

Make this the year you make that change you know is needed.   Are you ready to jump?

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19 thoughts on “Are you ready to jump?

  1. Naomi Epstein

    I just read on Ceci’s blog that you are going to write about “change” and here’s your post!
    And what a post! Maybe we should print it out and stuff into the teacher’s school mailboxes and hang it on notice boards (though I would have to translate it first…). I have a sneaky suspicion that those who are active on “blogosphere” are more open to change and experimenting.
    perhaps next post should be a poll – how to spread the word of this post?
    A pleasure to follow your blog!
    Thanks for fixing the comment issue!

    1. seburnt

      It’s my mission to promote change. Well, maybe not, but in more people’s cases than should be, the push to change is necessary.

      I’d love for you to print out this post and hand it out to the luddites around you. You’re right: the blog readers may or may not be those that need this push.

  2. Naomi Epstein

    Forgot to say – WHAT a picture!

  3. Vicky Loras

    Hi Tyson!

    What a great post (again!).

    I made a very big jump two years ago by coming to Switzerland. It was really tough for me and I can say that this year I am finally feeling great and content, both with my life and my teaching. I have started for instance using Dogme-like approaches in my classes – it is something completely different from what I used to do and I must say, I love it and so do my students!

    I love your idea of visiting a bookstore to browse – that is one of the best ways to get new ideas (it has worked for me so many times).

    The idea of making new beginnings in Septmeber is great for us teachers. I cannot remember who said it, but someone said once on Twitter that we teachers are lucky, because every year we can make a new beginning in our profession.

    Totally agree with Naomi that we should print this post out and give it to others as well! I’m defintely pinning it to my bulletin board to look at every day. I love your concept of change and getting out of a rut.

    About the song you chose, coincidentally it is one of my favourites by Madonna for a special reason: in the beginning here when things were not really that rosy for me, my older sister who also lives here told me “This should be your song, you made a jump, don’t ever look back as it says!”.

    4C is offically one of my favourite blogs!!!

    Thanks so much Tyson,

    1. seburnt

      I knew you’d done a big change yourself, but can’t say I fully know the circumstances around it. What I do know is talking about your school in Greece is an emotional thing for you. Sometime, let me in on the backstory. I’d love to hear it.

      New beginnings, like said on by that mystery person on Twitter, are a lucky aspect of our profession. It should never get stale. If it is, move on. Don’t cling to a role that you no longer learn from.

      Glad Madonna’s Jump means something to you. I know others who have a similar connection to it…

      1. Vicky Loras

        I’d love to share that story Tyson. It was one of the most difficult decisions we ever had to make. Everything is going well now, thankfully.

        Think Week, PD week, count me in, whatever you plan to call it or do : ) Things have changed to the best, which means I can take time off more easily – whoop!


      2. seburnt

        I look forward to hearing about your school and the decision to leave it. You’re an inspiration too, Vicky.

  4. Cecilia Lemos (@CeciELT)

    Super inspiring post… Can I have 2 #blogmust today??? 😉

  5. Tara Benwell

    I totally agree with you and Vicky about bookstores. They are my #1 inspiration when I need a change. (Or libraries) Have you heard of Think Week? I think every teacher should have one:

    1. seburnt

      I haven’t heard that term specifically, but Berni Wall’s PD Weeks inspire me to host my own by inviting teachers to spend a week at a cottage collaborating. There’s already been some interest, but have yet to find the best time for it all to happen. Sounds like a perfect opportunity to rebrand it Think Week. =)

  6. david mearns

    Hi Tyson, great post! You are the epitomy of all that is colaboration what with your posts and tweets, blogs and ideas. Since I am relatively new to both platforms mentioned above I am so impressed and enthused by the extraordinary mount of colaboration that is going on electronically. THAT is the unfortunate issue: WE are preaching to us, the converted, about collaboration and what that means to us. The sad truth is the people who need to be collaborating more and more are those ‘teachers’ who refuse to explore, expand and develop their tired and weary methods. I don’t want to make this another negative rant about those that don’t because I have some good news on that front. I was contacted yesterday by some colleagues who are making waves about coming onboard with technology in their classrooms and with 24/7 access for their students via twitter et al. So, the news is filtering down and hopefully by 2015 we can have a much more substantial state of affiars in collaborative terms with everyone bar those who have been resigned to their beach house in the sky dream that will never go away. I guess what I am saying is thanks for the great message and lets all keep plugging away at making those colleagues of ours who would be so happy if they would only give your and our sentiment the benefit of the doubt

    1. seburnt

      Thank you, David, for some very kind words. One thing that has repeatedly come up from this (and other) posts is the idea that we’re preaching to the converted and though I completely understand that idea based on not only the comments on blog posts and tweets in general, but the fact that anyone who reads blogs must already be more open-minded than others. However, after some contemplation, I believe this may only be a partial concern for a couple of reasons:

      a. You are your colleague’s colleague. My ideas don’t stop with the blog post; they spill over into my physical world with the colleagues in it. Sure, not all of them read my posts, but all of them do interact with me and post or not, the sentiment remains the same. I suppose it’s likely the same with you, Vicky, Naomi or anyone who is a thoughful educator.

      b. Not everyone who reads blogs is on Twitter. I know a number of people who’ve been reading mine or other educational blogs for a long time, but feel no desire to use Twitter, so they rely either on their own bookmarks or perhaps Facebook (the more mainstream of the two social platforms) for links.

      c. Those that are ‘resigned to their beach house in the sky’ as you say aren’t going to be swayed from that dream for any reason and I’d say we no longer be that directly concerned with changing them. Accept it. Other Luddites though, can be shown by example. Many times fear is hidden behind their resistance.

      In the end, getting the message of change, whether it be technology, activities or role changes, happens in a number of forms, not just be reading blogs. Hopefully our collective blogs and tweets, inspire each other to contribute to the change of others that need and accept it.


  7. Anne Hodgson

    My big “jump” this year was teaching a mixed level monolingual class that spoke an L1 that I don’t speak, Spanish, as part of my diploma course. Actually, the whole course was a “jump”, but the most challenging, rewarding part was the teaching. I simply didn’t understand them when they spoke English, why they were using particular structures and words, so it was a fascinating process of familiarization, learning to to research their language, stage content to suit their needs, and come up with tasks. It forced me to think very hard about absolutely everything I do in the classroom, about learner training, about cultural factors… and now I’m hungry for more.
    One “jump” is very likely to lead to another. 😉

    1. seburnt

      Very true. One jump leads to another, so long as you are willing. The last two years I’ve gone from being a DOS, to managing an ELT resource store, to opening 4C, doing private workshops for schools and colleges, instructing at a content-driven EAP model for the University of Toronto and coordinating an 8-week program for international adults and youth. It’s been a whirlwind. Now the MA is just around the corner…

      Enjoy your leaps, Anne. =)

  8. Dina Dobrou

    Read it while listening to the song. Really inspiring indeed!
    The first line says it all for me, really!
    I’ve always felt the “start of the year” is September. It almost feels like I never left school…
    Always excited as a student, I waited to see what “the new year” had in store for me.
    As teachers, it’s true, we should strive to engage, inspire and motivate our learners, but also ourselves!
    As Mahatma Gandhi put it:
    Be the change you wish to see in the world!
    A great post to start “the year” with!
    Yup! Get ready to jump!
    Thanks Tyson! 🙂

    1. seburnt

      “There’s only so much you can learn in one place
      The more that I wait, the more time that I waste

      I haven’t got much time to waste
      It’s time to make my way
      I’m not afraid of what I’ll face
      But I’m afraid to stay”

      You’re so right; these few lyrics alone set the entire stage for the post and is exactly why I chose it, Dina.

      I was in the private sector for about a decade, so with continuous intake, I’d felt that the new school year for me was a thing of the past, but since teaching at the university the last two years, I’m back in the ‘school’ feeling, like you.

      I hope you continue to feel inspired and engaged in your own learning, but if you don’t, that you are encouraged to take that jump.

      Thanks for stopping by! =)

      1. Dina Dobrou

        Ah, that ‘school feeling’ rocks, doesn’t it? I’m gonna stay forever young in this profession! 😛

        I took my first jump when joining twitter and PLNs about a year ago. Since then I’ve been greatly inspired and both my teaching and own learning have taken a different dimension.

        I intend to keep jumping as per your recommendation and stepping out of my comfort zone as per Shelly’s recommendation!

        Looking forward to another “action filled” post, Tyson! 🙂

  9. funkyhighness

    Love this post! I’ve jumped many times in my life, and I would like to add that it’s important to jump when the time is right. If I can make an analogy to your picture there, you might decide to jump when your current situation is feeling a little too crowded or claustrophobic. Three fish in one little cup! Same people, same spaces, same routine. It’s probably time to shake things up. JUMP!
    When you get into that bigger fishbowl though, there are new corners to explore, new walls to find. Jumping too soon, you might miss out on all that the fishbowl has to offer towards your development and knowledge. It might make sense to stay a while and see how it all works. Jumping now might not be a good idea. Just got here!
    Once you HAVE explored all the nooks and crannies, you may find that the fishbowl is now too small or too boring for you. Time to JUMP!
    Another ‘good time’ to jump is if you know that things are not working out for you. Maybe that new fishbowl you’ve just jumped into is full of bleach instead of water. It will poison you. Time to JUMP!
    I think you are right that we need to take opportunities when they present themselves, but we also have to be conscious of when we need to take a little hop that will stir the water a little, and when we need to take a big leap that will completely transform us!

    1. seburnt

      Excellent analogies, Rona! I knew that picture would come in handy sometime. =) And you’re totally right–knowing when to jump and when to just stir up the waters a little is also valuable.

      When I first wrote this post, I was hoping to push those who find themselves in a rut, but wavering on taking that leap to something now. I know so many people who have stayed in the same position far too long and don’t realise their potential (in more ways than one) won’t be reached if they stay. Encouragement is needed, with its related courage developed.

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