This week’s post comes to you from Faye Licari.  Faye is an Instructional Technology Coach in Kaneland Community Unit School District #302!  I hope you enjoy Faye’s post as much as I did, it provided me a moment to reflect and some great strategies that I can utilize to help me zoom out and reset! 

        As an instructional technology coach, I often have teachers come to me feeling frustrated because they have inadvertently hit something on their keyboard that changed the way they see things on their computer screen. No matter what they do, they can’t get their screen view back to their preferred ratio. The most common solution that I offer is to press the Ctrl key and tap  – , or zoom out and reset the view. This simple task results in my teachers showing a sense of relief followed by a sheepish grin and, “I knew it was something simple.”

        Zoom out and reset. I thought of this idea for a blog post at the end of 2021, and I have spent the last few months putting it into practice. It is a simple fix for a computer monitor, but it has been much more difficult to apply in my daily life. I noticed that if  I take a step back from one issue, a new one finds its way into my line of sight. Before I know it, I am zoomed back in again, fixated on something new. The reset has been a challenge for me. 

        For example, a few weeks ago I was zoomed in on the issue of masking in school. It is a topic that I never wanted to write about, and I am only touching upon it here because of its relevance to the idea of zooming out and resetting. The outpouring of nastiness that erupted after the court ruling over masks sent me running to the social media buffet line, devouring heaping helpings of declarations and accusations. I had been on a bit of a social media diet – trying to consume small portions from sources that are healthy for me. I spent too much of my precious time feeling tense and even angry. There went my diet. I felt stuffed and in desperate need of some emotional exercise.

        Enter my good friends Dr. Brené Brown and James Clear. Okay, they aren’t really my friends. In fact, neither of them sent me a birthday card or even a text last year, but their words on Brené’s Dare to Lead podcast have spoken to me like a true, honest friend would. Brené interviewed James about his book, Atomic Habits, and while the conversation was recorded last year, the book, the concept, and the mindshift remain applicable to life today in 2022. 

        James Clear encourages his readers to think about the type of person they want to become instead of thinking about a goal they would like to achieve. He suggests that once we decide what type of person we want to become, we can adjust our personal systems and daily habits to align with our vision. When it comes to social media, I want to be the type of person who engages with certain platforms to learn something new, find inspiration, and see the latest updates from friends and family. This has meant taking a step back and examining the people and pages I follow to determine whether or not the content serves to teach, inspire, and update me. The reset has been unfollowing and deleting accounts that zoom me in too close to issues that would be better discussed face to face while sharing space and energy with another human whose opinion may differ from mine.

        I have always wanted to learn something new. I love to learn. I am passionate about it, which is why I became a teacher. And I think it’s safe to say that most of us in education want to learn something new. Yet, one of the things I have been hearing this year is that we just do not have the capacity for anything new. It is fair, reasonable, and healthy to say there is no space for another new thing right now, because adding something new can be a form of distraction. My favorite quote from James Clear’s book is, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” Perhaps what we need right now is to zoom out on our own personal systems and reset them. I had created a personal system on social media that invited me to zoom in and become distracted by the noise of others. I was allowing new information into my head and heart that did not align with the type of person I want to be.

Putting it into action

What are some practical ways to zoom out and reset? Zooming out can be creating physical space between yourself and an issue or it can be giving your emotions space to breath:

• After you receive a difficult or challenging email, close your laptop and stand up from your desk. Next, find a piece of paper and write out your thoughts – good, bad, ugly, reactionary. Don’t type them out; write them down on paper. Studies have shown that longhand writing instead of keyboard typing can serve as an emotional release after a difficult or stress inducing experience.

  • At the end of an unproductive work session (maybe your plan time vanished before you could check off a single item on your to-do list), take a quick inventory of your workspace. What do you notice? Is anything out of place? Is there something tugging at your attention and causing you to feel distracted? Your reset could be something as simple as moving an item to a different, more practical location or hiding an item, such as your phone, from view.
  • Dealing with a difficult colleague? Zoom out and make a list of the reasons why that other person’s behaviors, ideas, opinions, and actions are justifiable. For example, John should be combative and shoot down ideas because…he is uncomfortable with change; he is a good teacher and this could feel like an attack on his craft.
    Making a list of why that person’s actions make sense can help you to reset the space between your viewpoints and theirs.
  • Before seeing a student with whom you have difficulty connecting, try sitting at his or her desk for a few minutes. How does the room look from your new vantage point? How does the seat feel to you? Is it comfortable? Do you have enough space to work? Can you see important areas of the room? Reset by leaving the student a note with an invitation to sit at your desk sometime.

Get going:

Here’s your opportunity to zoom out and reset!  Get out your pencil and paper and use these prompts to guide your writing:   

  • What are you zoomed in on right now?
  • If you were to zoom out, what would be the next, obvious distraction?
  • What type of person do you want to become? 
  • What personal systems do you need to examine?
  • What do you need in order to reset?

A final thought, as the weather warms up and the snow begins to melt, let’s create space in our personal systems to allow ourselves to bloom again.

I want to again thank Faye for sharing her knowledge with us through her writing.  If you would like to be a guest writer for “The Progress Report” please reach out to me (Katie) so we can arrange this.  We all have something we can learn or take away from one another so please consider being a guest writer, such as Faye has. 

Raven Szalkowski – Professional Learning Coordinator

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