Why do we seek out things that scare us? Why do we go to scary movies, ride roller coasters, jump from airplanes? Because it gets our adrenaline flowing, it makes us feel alive. When we manage to get through unscathed, it makes us feel more powerful, more able to confront and handle other things in life that may strike fear within us.
There are many situations that occur in every day life that may be a cause of anxiety, that make us feel afraid. For anyone who may have been paying attention to the intended 10 week Summer Arts Immersion To-Do list I created for myself, you may have noticed I was short one week. I had taken a one week hiatus and ended up running out of summer and running into the new school year. The one item on that list I never talked about was “Do something that scares you.” Although I had it on the list for summer, it’s actually a really powerful thing to do all year long. Forcing ourselves as educators to engage in things that scare us allows us to build empathy for our students who encounter the unknown and the potentially scary on a daily basis.
For some of our students, just coming to school is that scary thing. For others, there may be a particular subject or kind of task that creates fear and anxiety, possibly even an arts-related task. As teachers we can forget those things in school that can be scary when they are happening for the first time for our students. The longer you have been teaching, the easier it may be to forget. And the longer you remain in your comfort zone, the harder it is to make yourself step out of it.
I will never forget the end of the last semester of my MEd program attending my thesis class and discussing the “art” portion of my thesis with my classmates. The fear was visceral. I have never fought so hard against something or had such a strong aversion to anything in my life before. When I finally broke down in utter despair, I emerged ready to make the most meaningful art I have ever created. I felt more empowered and stronger than I had ever been. Although that class happened 15 years ago, ever since then, whenever I start to experience similar feelings of fear coming on, I take note because I know that something really good is just beyond the horizon if I can force myself to go there.
So, Go Do Something that Scares You
Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” I happen to agree and I am trying to take those words to heart. I am trying to meet my fears head on so I can be a better human being for the world and a better educator for those I am lucky enough to teach. As educators, we need to be role models of healthy risk-taking for our students. We also need to keep reminding ourselves of how scary and how powerful facing our fears can be. We can then be mindful as our students face their own personal challenges and be poised to support those students so they too emerge empowered, emboldened and enlightened.
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.