Many of us entered the field of education because we love to learn or feel strongly about the particular content that we teach. But is your love of learning, or affinity for math, science, history, literature, or language hindering your practice?

Being a good educator means empathizing with the students we work with each day, and many students in our schools are asked to step out of their learning “comfort zones” on a daily basis. Young people who dislike or struggle with reading are asked to read to the class. Creative thinkers are asked to conform their thoughts to scientific logic. And linear, rule-based thinkers are required to create works of art. So try this: take a course outside your own comfort zone and strengthen your empathy “muscle.”

Try one of these many online offerings from Coursera, which start this month:

  • Introduction to Computational Arts: Processing (State University of New York)
  • Introduction to Chemistry (Duke University)
  • Fundamentals of Global Energy Business (University of Colorado)
  • Early Renaissance Architecture in Italy: From to Alberti to Bramante (Sapienza University of Rome)
  • History of the Slave South (University of Pennsylvania)

Try to resist your firs, second, or even third choice. Go for the course that will put you as far from your comfort zone as possible and see what happens. Hopefully, you’ll learn something valuable that you didn’t know before about the topic. More importantly, you’ll learn more about yourself as a student and will gain new insight into what it feels like to be a learner.

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