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Lessons from the Back of an ATV

Stephanie Hirsh image
Stephanie Hirsh

Typically, here's how I want to spend my time on vacation: Give me a good book, time to enjoy the workout facilities, and some interesting dining options. Adventure for me is a second mojito.

But last week on vacation, I went beyond my comfort zone by several miles. And while it left me shaking, it was a great reminder about both the difficulties and benefits of stretching in a new direction.

Despite my intentions to sit out the ATV outing, I found myself suiting up to join my friends for what would surely be a disaster. I was feeling everything I don't want to feel on vacation (or really anytime): fear, lack of confidence, embarrassment. However, our guide assured me that he wouldn't let me fail or hold up our group.

Somewhat reassured, I settled in and caught on to the basics of driving. The longer we rode, the more I realized I could do this. I started to gain confidence and even had a moment or two of enjoyment.

And then we got to a hill. I don't know how high or steep it was, but certainly higher and steeper than anything I intended to conquer. However, our leader didn't let me waiver. He led me to the top, and in spite of my anxiety, I made it.

When we reached our next hill, I was done. I know my limits and I had nothing else to prove. So I took a different route and appreciated a lonely stretch of beach while my friends had a great time on their ride.

As someone who spends her days working on issues that require change and stressing the value of continuous improvement, this outing reminded me of some fundamentals:

The expectations we hold for ourselves and others can determine how far we'll grow. I never pictured myself on an ATV, and my vision of my capacity has kept me from many adventures I might enjoy. How does our vision of our own abilities keep us from trying new things that will accelerate our efforts to help more educators and students achieve their goals?

Both pressure and support are the essential ingredients of positive change. After our guide helped me learn the basics and led the way, I was fine to travel along, and he pushed me where I didn't really want to go. In addition, I felt pressure to join the group and succeed from my friends as well as incredible support through the times that were most challenging to me. How can school and system leaders balance offering educators the resources, structures, and support they need to improve with the pressure to implement changes that are essential to meeting critical goals for their schools, themselves, and their students?

Reaching a stretch goal influences how learners set future goals. Now that I've had a successful ATV outing, I'm wondering what else I might try that seems beyond my reach. In schools, how can leaders encourage educators to set challenging goals that demonstrate what they can accomplish and positions them to set their sights higher the next time around? There is something to the old saying: success begets success.

New experiences help learners develop a new mindset about the world around them and their roles in it. I know that on my next adventure, I'll assess my abilities differently, and I might even take on the higher climb or surprise my family by trying something new on the next family vacation.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director,
Learning Forward 
@HirshLF

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