Moving beyond perceived limits

If you are a regular listener to our podcast, you may have noticed that David and I have very different personalities. Our differences were actually the inspiration behind our logo. David is much more analytical and structured (although people that have dealt with me on calendar issues might disagree) and I am more the free spirit. At least, that is what is at the base of our personalities. We have both moved beyond the perceived limits and constraints that go along with those personalities. For example, I am typically a very organized person that loves lists and calendars. What my personality brings to that is color coding. One of the things that I have noticed is that although I have moved beyond my comfort zone or my personal preferences in many things, I still try to bring my personality into those things. That’s why my filing cabinet looks very similar to this one.

While this is not my filing cabinet, it makes me very happy and looks very similar to mine.

However, what about when we push up against a limit that we perceive to be there when it actually is not something that is stopping us. For me, that limit has been something called imposter syndrome. I have been blogging about my imposter syndrome on my personal blog (Beautiful Minds Inspire Others). While I would love for you to go read what I’ve been working on, I want us to move beyond the details of my struggle and think about what pushing past limits that are based on our perception can mean to us in the classroom and to our students.

We all face limits in the classroom, both real and perceived. Sometimes those limits are true limitations that we are not able to change or move past. However, I often see educators feeling constrained by limitations that are not something tangible or real. Most of us can see when others are being limited by perception and we encourage them to keep moving to push past those limits. What happens when we are the ones being limited by perception? Can we always trust our friends, family, colleagues, etc. to see that we are only being limited by perception and encourage us to move past it? In my own life, I have depended on many people to help me push past these self-imposed limits. Most of the time they have seen that it was a self-imposed limit and encouraged me to move past it. Sometimes, they have had to drag me kicking, screaming, and doubting myself to the point where I started moving past the perception. Starting this podcast is a prime example of that. David came up with the idea of the podcast, pitched it to me, and kept mentioning it even though my response was consistently that no one would want to hear what we had to say. Once we had started the podcast, he came up with the idea to partner with Pursue Outfitters for Perfect Chaos shirts. Neither of these things would have been possible without his continuous encouragement (and a little pushing). I’m telling you this because I really want you to think of the perceived limits you have in your classroom. What are things that you could potentially push past?

Perhaps more importantly, what is our role as an educator to help students push past their perceived limits? How can we help them push past those limits? Most of us spend a ton of time encouraging students to be more than they think they can be or trying to get them to believe that they are smarter than they think. We make bulletin boards about growth mindset and have great sayings that we remind them to use when they are stuck. What about when it gets past the cute sayings and bulletin boards? What about when a student needs some of the tough love to help them move beyond their perceived limit? What about when we need to not take no for an answer? On the flip side, how do we help them to recognize the actual limits?

I am, and apparently have been since a very young age, a mother hen. All the sayings about my students are my kids truly represent how I think of my students. That is part of why I am such a relational teacher. I truly enjoy being around my students and feel a vested interest in their successes. That also means that I have some very tough conversations with my students that may go beyond the standards we are working on in the classroom. I don’t see that as my job, but as my calling. To me, that is part of being a good teacher. It didn’t change when I went from teaching high school to college, the limits just changed.

Every student that we come into contact with has some real limitations. Every student we come into contact with also has some perceived limitations that they could move past with the right kind of encouragement. Sometimes that encouragement needs to come from us, and sometimes we need to help them find the right place to get that encouragement. It isn’t an exact science, and because of that we stumble along the way. It’s okay, our students stumble as well. In fact, I am of the opinion that it is good for our students to see us stumble as it makes us human. One of the things that unites us as teachers, regardless of discipline or the age of our students is the desire to see them succeed. Helping them push past the perceived limits is one way to accomplish that. So what are some ways that we can do that? I don’t have all the answers, but here are some things that I have done in the past that have been helpful

  • Help them make a list of what limitations they see
  • Categorize those limitations based on three things, what does the student control, what does the student influence, and what happens regardless and then let go of the things that happen regardless
  • Have students organize priorities
  • Teach them self-reflection
  • Have students create a vision board of what it would look like to move past the limitation
  • Determine steps to move past the limitation
  • Determine what could potentially derail the progress and make a plan to keep moving beyond those things

These are just a few things, and I am certain that many of you have a ton more suggestions for how to help a student move past the perceived limits. I encourage you to also utilize these suggestions to help yourself move past the limits that have been set by perception. Also, make sure you check out the amazingness at Pursue Outfitters by clicking the link above. Next week, I am going to talk about the other thing that holds us back – the pursuit of perfection.

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