It is a catalyst of panic, anxiety, PTSD, and phobias, sweating, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat and more.
It is overwhelming, paralyzing, and limiting.
It is FEAR.
Fear of the unknown or, xenophobia, keeps us from doing anything that may be out of the zone of comfort we all love and nestle into. Xenophobia holds us back from the great treasures we may have discovered if we had only taken that first step, no matter how uncomfortable.
I recently applied at my church to be the praise and worship minister. This was an anxiety inducing action for me, even though I have been on the stage hundreds of times playing keys or singing. This action was outside of my comfort zone.
Educators are facing fears right now during this uncharted time in history. We are doing things that are uncomfortable and possibly out of our level of expertise. Lessons are being created for new platforms. The platforms themselves are new to many of us. On top of all of the logistics of teaching, we are worried about our students. There are many unknowns about them as well. Are they regressing? Do they have what they need physically and emotionally? How can I be the teacher they need right now? How long can this last? If we go back to school on time, what happens then?
So many questions, with so many unknown answers.
Being Wrong or Criticized
Fear is not always a manifestation from something tangible, such as my unreasonable fear of spiders, but it can be materialized from our inner self. What if I am wrong? What is the worst that can happen?
My fear of being the praise minister is not about my ability to play keys or sing well, but from the thought that others may see me mess up. If I do, then others will be critical of my efforts. I decided during the sermon yesterday that I would seek criticism as a way to grow myself. If others don’t like the way I lead, then I will work hard to be better at it. I create criticism in my head before it even happens and often cause my own anxiety. My church congregation has never told me I failed, even when I completely lost my place one time, stopped playing, and started laughing. They just laughed with me, not at me.
Educators right now are doing the best they can given the current circumstances and limited resources. We are working hard to make sure that next year will be successful, no matter what that looks like. Teachers are seeing criticism on Facebook and other media outlets as well as hearing it from community members. We must encourage, praise, and lift each other, because no one else knows what it is like to be an educator right now.
Realizing and embracing fears leads to change. Remember that I said I had an unreasonable fear of spiders? Last summer a little jumping spider was in our bay window; I noticed that there were fly remains in the window also. I decided that since the spider was earning her keep, I would let her stay. Then, she had babies. Now I had a momma spider and at least 50 babies crawling all over my window and house plants. For some reason I began to check on them every day. I even gave the water in a soda bottle lid and my boys gave the momma a name. Guess what, I have two little spiders in my window this year, Hank and Tom; I will not be checking the gender to see that the names match.
Why do we fear change? Change can be good if you look for the good in it. We fear change because it is uncomfortable. I had to make myself uncomfortable by letting the spiders live in my house where I knew at any moment they could crawl into my bedroom and kill me in my sleep. I might be a little dramatic on this point, but you get the gist.
Overcoming Fear of Change
Original post on FEBRUARY 12, 2019 BY MELINDA VANDEVORT @ www.livinlifelimitless
I attended my very first Edcamp a few days ago. I was not sure what to expect, but was pleased with the outcome, learned a lot, and connected with some new friends.
One sessions that I attended was entitled, Student Voice in School Leadership. It was a very informative sessions with a student leader from an area high school in attendance. He was well spoken and very knowledgeable. Along with the rest of the adults, I learned a great deal from his high school student perspective.
On to the point of this post…..
During the session our group took a side road and shifted the conversation a bit. We started talking about the freedom in failure. How can failure be a freeing concept rather than negative? Few people are comfortable with failing and certainly don’t want to admit they have. I am among those who find failure hard and have always pushed myself to do the best I can at a task. But in order to avoid the feelings that are hard to deal with if I am unsuccessful, I also avoid situations that could present a failure. I am the person that will replay something in my head 100 times over to figure out what I could have done differently, often to the point of consuming me in a debilitating way. Pride gets in my way and instead of embracing the failure, I find myself embarrassed by it.
As a pianist at church, I play with the praise team and with our youth group. While playing with the other instrumentalists, I am comfortable because mistakes are covered and no one hears them. When playing alone during communion and offering time, terror encroaches. My hands physically tremble, which is not helpful while playing an instrument, my stomach hurts and nausea sets in. I have to do deep breathing exercises just to calm myself enough to make it through the two or three songs I have chosen. I have been known to play the same few songs that I am comfortable with over and over. Why such a reaction? I am terrified of messing up in front of the congregation. Would they notice if I did? Probably not. Would they even care if they did notice? Doubtful. I create this fear and anxiety in my own head.
As an adult, if I find it this hard to deal with failure and have such a unpleasant physical reaction to the possibility of it, how much more difficult is it for students? We say, “FAIL=First Attempt In Learning.” Do we mean that just for our students or do we include ourselves as teachers, parents, adults. I cannot tell students in my care to learn from a failure and move on, when I myself have difficulty moving past it.
What can we do?
Cast Aside Pride
This is extremely hard for me. Not for the fact that I think I am above others, far from it. It is the embarrassment aspect for me. An acquaintance of mine absolutely will not admit when they are wrong because they would be embarrassed. I have never wanted to be that person, but I used to be. I learned to admit when I was wrong and to say, “I’m sorry,” only after becoming an administrator. There was no more “saving face” with my teachers and the other administrators, but taking responsibility for all things to protect my staff, and be successful.
I can’t tell my students to embrace failure and “fail forward” then, not model that characteristic myself. The network marketing book, Go For No, highlights mindset and not letting the word “no” be debilitating, but liberating. We can teach our students more by modeling the correct way to handle failure, than to avoid any chance that we may fail in front of them. Let them see us as vulnerable, and human.
Growth Mindset for All
After showing my students a stop motion youtube video featuring the book, The Most Magnificent Thing, we talked about “Yet” mindset. Mindset is subjective and what the girl in the story saw as failure, others saw as opportunity. Her trash was their treasure. Show students how to connect growth and failure.
Create Opportunities for Growth and Failure
We tell our students not to be afraid to try, and in my case those words fell on my own deaf ears. Avoidance of many things for fear of failure has been my default far too long. Modeling a “Yet” mentality not only for my students, but my own three sons and two grandbabes, and putting myself out there by trying new things is my new direction.
I actually need to take a lesson from my oldest son as that boy is not scared to try anything. I was pretty sure early on that we would be unable to raise him to adulthood. After homemade zip lines between two trees using the handlebars from a bike to zip down the line, jumping from the 30 foot balcony onto the bounce house at church, showing his friend how to “flip a knife” in the air and catch it by the handle (which he caught by the blade, you can infer the rest) and many visits to the ER, he has learned much and so have I. While I choose not to be as extreme, and unsafe as he, I applaud his ingenuity and give-it-a-go attitude. I actually may write a children’s book about all of his adventures!
Small Steps to Success
Take small steps to free yourself from the fear of failure. Become a failure junkie! Try something uncomfortable and live in the moment of that feeling. Then, try something else uncomfortable. Let another teacher visit your classroom and watch you teach. Create and lead a PD opportunity for your colleagues. Learn a new app or program to use with your students and then let them teach you how to use it better. Join in a game with the students in the gym or on the playground even if you don’t know how to play or are less that good at it.
Letting others, especially your students, see you take a risk, even if you fail, speaks much louder than just telling them to take a chance at possible failure.
Failure and perseverance eventually leads to success.