Photo of Andy Rodford in the Quad with students in the background

As the school year settles into a new normal during these strange COVID-19 times, it has been exciting to watch students and staff increasingly lean confidently into the land of all things unfamiliar. The idea of doing things outside of comfort zones can sometimes be unnerving, whether you are in Kindergarten, in your teen years, or as an adult, where you might talk a good game about doing new things, while having the same questions potentially running through your mind as any young person: Should I do this? Can I do this? and, Will I look foolish doing this? just to name a few trepidations from the ‘trying new things’ list.

As an experiential educator, I know that fear of the unknown can be paralyzing, while trying and accomplishing new things can be enormous components of learning, enduring understandings and personal growth. In fact, when adults consider their school years, they often will recall experiences that involved doing something out of their comfort zone, that resulted in tremendous personal accomplishment and maybe even helped shape who they are today. I hate to use this term in a year that we may wish to forget, but that is 20/20 hindsight.

Each day, we are presented with opportunities – small, medium and sometimes large – where we might overthink ourselves to a place of paralysis. My suggestion is that, more often, we need to forget the terms and conditions and just hit accept. This is the third point on Rodford’s Rules for Life, which I have written about in previous messages.

SMUS is a place where opportunities to take appropriate risks are plentiful, both as a student and as an adult. New experiences outside of your comfort zone can provide a thrill in the moment, but more importantly can help vanquish fears, open minds and help instil confidence to take on all 'new normals' that we will experience through a lifetime.

Earlier in the term, our maintenance and grounds staff jokingly asked if I wanted to retrieve the end of the Richmond Road flag rope that was stuck at the top of the pole, 100 feet off the ground, after being used by a film company during the summer. Much to the surprise of our staff, I instantly said, “I’ll do it!”

For the record, I am not a huge fan of heights or riding in an open basket so far off the ground; however, I knew the safety expectations would be covered, so I leaned into this very public experience and accepted the challenge. (You can watch a short video of it here.)

SMUS is teeming with opportunities to ‘test your edges,’ as a teacher once said to me, and bolstered by unconditional acceptance when it comes to supporting the pushing of comfort zones. By adopting the notion of “I’m possible – not impossible” (also one of Rodford's Rules for Life), everyone in our community can challenge each opportunity without paralyzing fear and instead with a sense of adventure and personal growth.

To students, parents, guardians and staff, how are you testing your edges this year?