If you want to be more creative, seek out new experiences. For me, it’s been substitute teaching.
One of the dangers of getting older is that you fall into routines that are predictable and boring. No matter what type of work you do—creative or otherwise—this is going to happen unless you take steps to prevent it.
I’m a full-time college professor in my day job. No, I haven’t quit my job and have no plans to leave. But over the last couple of years I have transitioned to teaching hybrid courses, which means that we meet one day a week in person, and the rest of the course is online.
Last November, I started to explore substitute teaching as a way to spend these couple of open days per week. I went through the process of getting my substitute certificate and started subbing a few weeks ago. By and large, it’s been a great experience and I’ve learned a lot about myself in a short amount of time. It’s also given me a much-needed creative spark.
Let me share what I’ve learned from subbing, and why you should seek out new experiences in your own life.
What I’ve Learned from Substitute Teaching
This new role as a sub has been all about the new. There are four aspects to this new venture that are helping me grow and learn.
New experiences. I’ve never taught in public schools before, and it’s quite a bit different than a small Christian college setting. Subbing has been full of things I haven’t experienced before, such as many more rules and procedures, learning to follow sub plans on the fly, dealing with younger students, and exposing myself to new subjects.
New people. I meet new people every time I sub—teachers, staff, students, sometimes administrators. Every time you meet a new person, it’s an opportunity to learn something new. For instance, I learned that two schools where I have subbed are major rivals (the North and South high schools in our district).
New situations. As as sub, I have to think on the fly much of the time. One of the most interesting experiences was when I showed up to a school on the wrong day. Instead of subbing for social studies as I expected, I ended up teaching a small group of special needs kids (with the help of paraprofessionals, who are my new heroes because of their patience and expertise). Just by virtue of being in that new situation, I was rewarded with a new experience I’d never had, and a new opportunity to learn something about myself.
New methods. I’ve been a college prof for eleven years, and I’ve been hungry to learn some new teaching methods and approaches. I’ve already learned a number of great tips from teachers of all ages, and I’ve excited to apply these to my teaching.
As you can see, all of these benefits have come as a result of simply being in a new situation.
The Value of a New Experience
I’ve heard it said, “Your life is perfectly engineered to produce the results you’re getting.” Basically, it means that if you want different results, you must have different input. The best way I know how to add a spark of creativity to your life is to seek out new experiences.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a part-time job. You could become a volunteer, join a mission trip, visit a museum, enroll in a course, build something, write a book, or create a work of art. The point is to intentionally put yourself in a situation that will shake up your routine and force you to learn something new.
You might say, “I like my life the way it is. I don’t need any new experiences.” It’s true that we need to accept ourselves and find joy in our current life situation. However, we must also strive to become the best version of ourselves. Gaining some new experiences is a great way to spark your creative life and become a better you.
For me, getting out into real-life situations through substitute teaching has been vital. I believe the same is true for you. It’s important to get away from our computers and devices on a regular basis, put ourselves in new and interesting situations, and meet some new people. Yes, it’s a risk, but it’s one worth taking.
I’d love to hear what kinds of new experiences you have been enjoyed lately. Share in the comments below!
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