Seeking out discomfort


This week I came across a post by Alyssa Tormala on the edutopia site. Entitled ‘Discomfort, Growth, and Innovation’ Tormala outlined the essential nature of innovation in education, highlighting the need to disrupt the status quo but tempered with the notion that, for many, changing what we do brings discomfort.

Here, at the end of the semester, there is a period of reflection and projection. There is some sense of comfort in what has been completed and a feeling that students have enjoyed their learning experience but this is surpassed by thoughts of what comes next – what can I do differently next time?  what can I tweak?

I feel I am drawn to discomfort and uncertainty – looking for new ways to do things, trying them even when I’m not sure they will work. I feel my drive for continual change is almost more about my needs than those of the students. I could change nothing and things would very likely work well.

Discomfort is also something I expect from my students. Teaching ethics begins with a period of unlearning; an unsettledness for students where the long established assumptions about life’s issues or their specific professional practice unravels a little as they are encouraged to examine the underpinnings of their decisions. Sometimes, for the first time, students are confronted with the complexity and inconsistencies that make up their decision-making processes, something those of us in this and related fields grappled with a lengthy time ago; inconsistencies in which we now find comfort.

At present I am at the start of a new discomfort trajectory. I have been given a new paper to teach next semester. It is not entirely new but has been gathering dust having not been offered for the past 6 years. It’s called Media and Communication in Health Promotion. Tormala’s ‘Discomfort, Growth and Innovation’ are all words that come to mind given the exponential change to our conception of ‘media’ and ‘communication’ during the time of this paper’s dormancy. A complete overhaul is needed. A blank slate. A fresh start. Exciting but daunting as I suddenly feel ill-equipped, inadequate and a little overwhelmed. Discomfort is definitely present but this time my questions what can I do differently and what needs to change aren’t so much reflections of personal indulgence but completely essential. This feels like a new type of discomfort, a feeling of pressure by others rather than me looking for personal growth. Perhaps I have grown comfortable with my own form of discomfort? Maybe its time to disrupt my status quo.