Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Story of Carl: Are You Too Comfortable?

This is Carl.

Carl is a weird bird who has decided that living on our deck (under my chair) is a really good idea. My kids named him Carl after a long discussion. (Don't ask.)

You can tell by the amount of bird droppings in the picture that Carl has lived under my chair for quite a while now. It's odd, he seems perfectly content to hang out there, even when people come out onto the deck. He even kept me company while I was grilling burgers the other night.

Carl prefers to walk than to fly. It's not that he can't fly. One of the first days I saw him there I half-heartedly tried to scare him off, and he flew into a tree in the yard. But he came back as soon as he could. And he tends to just waddle around. It makes me wonder if he's sick, or just too comfortable.


I'm thinking about Carl because I think he might be an object lesson for us.

Often, we prefer to hang out where we are comfortable, places we know are safe. It can be scary to fly off into the unknown!

But...if you only stay waddling around in the same area all the time, what opportunities are you missing?

I wonder about teachers who keep doing the same thing, year after year after year. Sure it's comfortable. But do you ever feel like you're missing out on things?

Sure, it might be comfortable for Carl to hang out among his own mess on the deck. But if he was meant to soar...he's missing out by staying too comfortable.

Teacher, you were meant to soar! Get out of your comfort zone! Try something new! Maybe you'll find a new flock heading in a direction you've never considered traveling before.


  1. Dave,
    Great post! Being a Carl is not only safe and comfortable, but easy, too. It is much easier to stay with the familiar rather than work through the challenges of the unknown. I needed to read this today. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Tammi. Glad you found this inspirational!

  2. On the one hand, I agree that one can get into a rut....that's like anything in life. So I agree that Carl needs to fly a bit more. Esp if he has not seen if it is for him.

    But there can also be a tendency among teachers to keep trying new things and new pedagogues almost like a drug--when the focus should be on what actually works to teach the students effectively, no? We can casually and arrogantly shrug off the methods that have been used successfully for thousands of years in educating people---b/c we're better and smarter than teachers for thousands of years? There is sometimes an arrogance that we can have as teachers that any approach more than a few years old is no longer operative. Or that everyone else should jump on the bandwagon that works for me---I've fought that tendency when it has to do with everyone else using simulations.

    Tried and true might work better for some teachers who don't feel or act like they're in a rut and students don't pick up on that either. Or that effectively does the job and engages the students. I've seen people playing music and doing all kinds of weird things in the classrooms....with little learning and little engagement. And I've seen old professors holding forth in a style that people a thousand years ago would recognize---and holding the students attention and teaching them far better than any new fad--from simulations to online learning.

    Finally...what if Carl is really Hermie...the elf that wanted to be a dentist in Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer? :) He can fly but prefers to do something that no one else is doing...bc it works for him.Why should Carl jump on the bandwagon of all the other fliers when he's the one that is actually different? Teachers should be the best teachers that they are--not what others want them to be through new fads, perhaps?

    Thanks Dave....made me think this morning!


    1. Paul,
      I think your point about always looking for the new thing, the new pedagogy, the new fad technique, the new panacea (which never seems to actually solve all the problems...) is right on. And I definitely agree that tried and true isn't really a bad thing--teachers are still using socratic dialogue...how many years since Socrates? :-)

      And I love your point about Hermie--that's a twist on Carl's oddness that I didn't really think about! Maybe Carl is actually doing it right...

      Mostly I just want to encourage teachers who are stuck in a rut and unwilling to explore or experiment with their teaching practice to find ideas that might challenge them--whether in conversation with colleagues (like this!), or joining a Twitterchat on a topic of interest, or studying a methodology they haven't tried before and reflecting on it's place in their teaching practice.

      And fundamentally, we are in one accord on your last point--> Teachers should be the best teachers they are!

      Thanks for the feedback, my friend!

    2. Thank YOU, Dave. Takes something to put yourself out there almost every day and take criticism from the cheap seats!

      I DO agree that if we are in our comfort zone to the extent that we go through motions (which I see far, far too often in teaching)--we need to shake it up.

      So, to be clear, I do agree with you--but caution against taking this too far (as I've seen with education models too long in last century and a half...just off the top of my head is the i.t.a initial teaching alphabet that screwed up plenty of people I know in the name of "progress")

  3. Did you write this specifically for me?

    1. Maybe... Did it hit a little close to home, my friend? ;-)