It’s Okay To Admit Fear

Summer is quickly winding down (or has already) for many teachers and students across the country. Here in Los Angeles many public and private schools have started; a few will be, in the next week or so.

And on Twitter the conversation continued throughout the summer, whether people sharing their Professional Development conferences, seminars, classes or joining chats. I joined in chats learning with incredible professionals looking at “best practices” for their students. I spent a wonderful summer with my daughter and grandkids and then a week in New York City with my son (he worked and I roamed neighborhoods, reacquainting myself with the city, it’s sites, food and attractions)! And that’s how I come to this reflection of “fear and uncertainty”. Putting it out there: it’s ok to admit fear, but not ok if fear holds you back.

The first few days of exploring the city to get to my destinations was by taxi. I walked everywhere once I was there; from downtown to uptown my transportation was by cab. And it got expensive! I quickly realized I was afraid to use the subway; I was a tourist traveling alone. But on the day I wanted to walk the Brooklyn Bridge I knew that a taxi was just plain wrong! I thought it through, went to the subway station and asked the ticket agent how to get to the bridge. Wherever I asked for help, the agents were so helpful and patient. Another time Uber was the best way to go and although I had used it before this was the first time I did the app and process on my own! For some these milestones of overcoming fear and uncertainty, may seem minor but for me they were big hurdles. There were some glitches and I did get turned around while walking in the city, but always in the daytime, and I just kept going.

And here I connect this reflection to kids and education. What’s easy for some is not for others. What some will do without trepidation, others hold back. What some will do with a gung-ho attitude and see a challenge as a road to conquer; others tread lightly, at times frozen in their tracks. Asking for help is ok, not asking and not doing, is not. In my years of teaching (and myself as a learner) I have seen the students who are the doers, the let’s wait, the jumping in with both feet, the let’s figure out all the possibilities before trying and the ones who won’t because of fear! The question then becomes why does the fear hold them back? Have we sent a message that this is something they should be able to do? Have we really laid the groundwork before they try? What do we know about the students that stops them from trying? Answering these questions is a partnership between the teacher and the student. Lecturing on trying is just another put down, another platitude. Asking how we can help, starting a conversation and really listening, as the students reflect for themselves what’s holding them back. And we get to learn!

As the school year begins, looking out at all those new faces, some eager, some ready and some disengaged we ask ourselves how do we make this year different and one they’ll remember as students who are “doers”.





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