If you’d rather listen
There is something about the smell of fresh school supplies and a new school year that elicits emotions reminiscent of the ones I feel around New Year’s. Despite the fact I am no longer tied to a contract derived from school dates, I still feel a tangible energy around this time every year. There is a sense of newness, optimism, a fresh perspective, an opportunity to try something different, a chance to make a change.
However, as anyone who has ever failed to keep a New Year’s resolution knows, there is a dark side to the new hope, fresh desires, and wild optimism. A competing emotion comes to fester and rain on our proverbial “parades” almost as if it was just waiting for us to take the first steps towards some new, uncharted territory.
Fear–this is the voice that says all the types of things below & I am sure many others.
You aren’t experienced enough. You are too young or too old. What will people think? You don’t want to rock the boat. You don’t have enough time. Things have always been done this way. You don’t know (insert specific skill or topic). Your degree isn’t relevant to this. You don’t have what they have. What you do doesn’t really matter. You don’t have what it takes.
And one of the worst: What can I really do anyway? Usually accompanied by the very dangerous: I am just a… teacher, mother, PTA president…etc.
Sheryl Sandberg would ask us at this point: What would you do if you weren’t afraid? I love the way this question takes my mind through a zip-line of possibilities now.
I spend a lot of time working with educators and technology, encouraging folks to move past some of the fears associated with the combination. So, to avoid becoming the cross-country coach that sits in his/her lounge chair popping Doritos while the team runs six miles, I started to think about what happened in my own life when I pushed past the stuff I was afraid of.
I knew from experience (and the consensus of several authors) that fear hates the light, fear hates community, and it loses much of its power when I just put it out there. With this in mind, I decided to make a list.
On the left side of my paper I titled a column: Fear. I wrote down all the specific instances I remembered being afraid in chronological order. Then I thought back to what happened. I labeled this side: Outcomes. So I asked myself, “Self, did the things things that you were so afraid of at that moment in time even happen? Did you get fired? Eaten alive by your students? Ostracized forever from your social network? Kicked off the stage during your first keynote? Laughed out of your training session or something of the likes?”
The answer to every question ended up being–NO and actually, I found the exact opposite to be true. Almost without exception, the major fears in my life, when pushed through by force or choice, became some of the clearest reasons for success or at least forward momentum, giving me the ability to complete the next project or endeavor that came my way.
Then, as if to reaffirm that what I stumbled on wasn’t a coincidence–I rediscovered it all over again. I was meeting with a friend and relaying some of my history and journey in edtech. The pattern resurfaced, each position, project, or request made of me seemed way out of my reach at the time. But, on the other side of fear and the fray there was growth, there was experience and perseverance, endurance and revelation–there was change. And it was overwhelmingly, statistically positive.
As I look again at the big fears I pushed (or got pulled) through, the only thing they really have in common is how sweet the other side was. These decisions, these fears–now overcome, are the building blocks of my life, my career, and even my marriage. These pieces fit together in a way I would have never envisioned.
I never thought that young first year teacher who shed tears about connecting her computer to the interactive white board would set up and troubleshoot at least a thousand of these in a couple years. I certainly never thought this right-brained child would be reading and secretly enjoying a book about Agile programming practices and know how to send command lines to reboot servers. I didn’t think tech was in my skill set, yet somehow this past spring, I slipped through the cracks and my ISTE presentation was accepted.
The more I work with my educators across the state, the more I hear a consistent voice come out. “Tracy, I’ve always been afraid of technology, but today you gave me hope.” So, maybe I am an Edtech evangelist–ill take it–but I really think it is just about putting our fears in the light and letting folks know they aren’t alone in these thoughts. Fear doesn’t discriminate based on age, experience, or anything else.
What will you do?
What is it this year that you want to try in your classroom, but are afraid might not work out? What is the worst that can happen if it doesn’t? Put it down on paper, make a Taxedo, a painting or a Phoster. Doesn’t it almost seem silly once you put it out there? Fear seems so much louder in our minds.
Pretty sure we aren’t going to see the change we want in our classrooms, schools, boardrooms, workplaces, and lives if we don’t take a chance, if we don’t take a risk, if we don’t push through the fear.
Ask yourself: What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Then call out a friend and ask them the same. I’m pretty sure you will like what’s on the other side.
A reminder to never stop asking myself this question.