Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable: Reflections from #EdcampSummitPNJ

Wednesday, March 15, 201712:54 PM

Learning is uncomfortable. When you’re the teacher, that’s sometimes too easy to forget. We design lessons that we think are meaningful and engaging, we work hard to reach out students, and we spend so much time planning and thinking about our classrooms and schools. But we also have to realize that in each any every decision we make, we are asking our students to take risks, to explore the unknown, and to be uncomfortable.

We need to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable--all of us: administrators, teachers, and students. The world and education are changing in ways that force us to recognize and embrace the discomfort, too; for example, there’s simply too much knowledge and too much access for anyone to know everything. That’s a realization that’s powerful and necessary--we can’t assume, or pretend, to know it all. Like our students, we have to be vulnerable and accept discomfort.

Image from

In addition to good lessons we have to build empathy machines, and systems that empower students to take risks and to be okay with failure as a necessary step on the learning journey. We need to work together to help our students, and each other, do more.

These are some of the big ideas that I took away from #EdcampSummitPNJ. I spent the weekend connecting and learning with so many wonderful educators. A lot of the conversations focused on the impact and variety of Edcamps, like for school districts and for students. Many also explored how schools and learning are changing. A common thread throughout was the need for empathy throughout our schools.

And in the best way, I was uncomfortable in my learning, too.

With Speechless, we explored improv and the unkeynote, creating collaborative keynotes using random slide decks and exploring our own discomforts. I love a good challenge, but the beat boxing and improv will never be my strength--or preference. But I bought in quickly because of Anthony’s passion, energy, and insight. He introduced the idea of Feedfoward, as opposed to feedback.

Feedforward is:
  • Flexibility and letting go of preconceived thoughts
  • Ratification of the idea
  • Creating an environment for the implausible
  • Creating room for all voices
  • Embracing teamwork with instantaneous affirmation
Feedforward is important to improv, but should be important to teaching, too. It’s actionable and shared, not based on one person or teacher’s opinion. This is the culture I want to create in my culture and school, and this uncomfortable activity helped me to put a name on it. It leads me to wonder, how else can we “yes, and…” education?

The Edcamp experience truly levels the playing field for all participants. In a room with Superintendents, administrators, teachers, and coaches, we were all friends and equals. It’s amazing to be a part of these thoughtful, honest, and reflective professional conversations at an Edcamp for Edcamp veterans. The rule of two feet, real conversation, and collaboration were key. There were no presentations in sessions; there wasn’t even a projector.

I’m so glad to have been a part of that room and to have participated in an #EdcampSummit. I’m thankful to the Edcamp Foundation for all of their hard work in putting it together and in supporting educator-driven professional learning. Hadley Ferguson, Executive Director of the Edcamp Foundation, explained that Edcamps are a movement changing education. And for me, that couldn’t be more true. Edcamps have changed the way I teach, coach, and organize professional learning, and this was a great experience to celebrate our successes and challenges to continue the hard work of teaching, learning, and being uncomfortable.

How have Edcamps impacted your practice or teaching? How do you deal with discomfort in teaching and learning? Share your ideas in the comments or on Twitter @MrSchoenbart.

You Might Also Like


  1. Adam: I went to the EdCamp Summit in Colorado Springs and did a blog post about being comfortable with being uncomfortable too (! It sounds like you had an enjoyable time and are ready to incorporate these ideas into your class :)

  2. Awesome! I will check out the post. Thanks for sharing, Rachel!