Monday, December 21, 2009

Facing my Fears in 2009!

First of all, thanks to everyone who voted for me in the Edublog Awards. I didn't win, but a lot of really great bloggers did. You can see all the winners here.

On Friday last week I got up in front of my entire school community, 440 teen age boys and about 60 teachers, and sang a song. It was part of a Faculty Holiday concert that we do every year. I have never sung a solo in front of a large audience. The first time I did Karaoke was this summer on vacation and there were only about 50 people there. That was a huge accomplishment for me and this Friday was even bigger.

I am a performer, I have been acting and dancing on stage since I was a little kid. But when I was in 6th grade I tried out for a small singing group and was told that I can't sing. I'll never forget that day. And unfortunately, I let one music teacher's opinion shape who I am. I stopped singing. I only auditioned for chorus and dancing parts for shows. I was embarrassed to sing next to someone and always felt they must be cringing at my voice.

It has taken me 30 years, but I am determined to face my fear of singing and take back that part of myself. As Carol Dweck might say, you aren't born a singer, you become a singer. If this is something I want badly enough, it is something I can do. I am determined not to let my fears stop me from living my life. In fact I've been actively seeking out my fears and facing them down this year.

This summer I learned to sweep row. I have always loved the water and my school has a crew team. I volunteered to help coach the middle school team last spring. "Coaching" involved standing next to a variety of amazing coaches and watching and learning. In the summer I finally got into a boat myself and learned how to row. I even rowed in a race. The race part is where I was terrified.

I have never been a competitive person. In fact, competition scares me. I get so anxious that I can't perform. I tried running a few 5K races years ago and I could barely breath, I was so nervous. This year, this was another fear that I was determined to overcome. I pushed through the fear and raced. It was an amazing experience. I'm so glad I did it. (I'm in the two seat, which is second from the bow of the boat.)

In fact, the more fears I face down, the easier it is to do. Neither of these experiences were resounding successes. My singing was not beautiful and we came in second to last in the race. But, neither were they horrible failures. Instead, I survived both and grew a little stronger and a little braver with each experience. In 2010 I'm going to continue to row and I am going to take some singing lessons.

The more I push myself, the more I want to push myself. I'm seeking out my fears, rather than running from them.

I have been so energized by my own experiences. I believe others can really benefit from doing this. Just take it one fear at a time. They don't have to be big things. In fact, to other people they may seem really small, but it is knowing inside that you are not going to let your fears run your life that really makes a difference.

Well, I haven't really talked about technology here, but I think for many people who are afraid of technology, helping them to face those fears could really make a difference. How can we encourage our colleagues and students to face their own fears and take them on?


Paul Bogush said...

"And unfortunately, I let one music teacher's opinion shape who I am."

Ever wonder what you would be like if something like this did not happen...what kind of person or teacher you would be if this and other similar things did not happen?

Ever wonder if all the things that put those fears into your head have made you a better teacher...someone more understanding of what it is like to be fearful...someone who can help kids grow a little stronger and a little braver with each experience.

Every time I say to my wife I wish I could erase a certain experience, she always points out how it has shaped me and shaped my teaching for the better.

Sometimes I think that we need more people in teaching who have let "one music teacher's opinion shape who they become." Someone who has felt that pain, would surly have a different perspective on how to support a child in learning something new and in making mistakes and taking risks.

"Every child is born an artist, the problem is to remain one once they grow up." Pablo Picasso

I also just wrote a post that somewhat connects to your last sentence ;)

Mrs. Davis said...

Thanks Paul for your insight on this one. That is definitely a glass half full way of looking at this. I never thought of it that way. This experience has definitely shaped the way I speak to my students about their potential.

Lisa Parisi said...

Powerful and inspirational. I am someone who avoids...anything I am fearful of. Mostly that is anything that might make me look silly or might have me fail (hence the reason I don't compete in anything). I never have a problem looking silly in front of my students but forget about in front of adults. I think I might have to try to conquer a fear so I can convince my students to do the same. Maybe it's time to take on singing myself. Always a dream of mine. :)

Talia said...

This is definitely inspiring- I think I need to have a look at some of my deep fears that I try to say I'm not really afraid of, and cofnront them. :-) Will have to call on you if the fear gets too much though!!

Aaron said...

Everyone should know a few things about Liz and preforming.
1st, her family is so very proud of her and the way she tackles her fears.
2nd, Liz is a wonderful actor. She has "it"!

Mrs. Davis said...

Lisa - I find it so hard to believe that you avoid your fears. You seem like such a risk taker to me. I encourage you take something on this year and let us know how it goes.

Talia - I advise starting small. Pick something only a little bit scary. I found the little things really helped me build up to the big ones.

Aaron - I feel very lucky to have such a loving family and such a supportive brother as you. I don't think I could have accomplished much without know all of you are always on my side.

Deven Black said...

You are inspiring me to try to overcome one of my fears. I am art phobic; I enjoy looking at it and watching other people do it, but I have a real dread of trying to draw, paint, sculpt or (shudder) do crafts.

I am going to start slow; buy myself a cheap sketch book and a good pencil and see what happens. If it takes, I'm going to send you a... well, something crafty.

Juliet Wehr Jones, J.D. said...

Your post struck a nerve for me - I can remember similar moments like what you describe (being told you couldn't sing). For me, it was being told by a college professor that I was not a writer - with little practical suggestions on how to improve. It turned out that my law school legal writing teacher helped motivate and transform my writing. Can you believe it - learning how to write in law school of all places?

But I faced my fear and crisis of confidence similar to what you did. So thank you for talking about this when the Internet is swamped with uninspiring new year's resolution junk.

I'm a former college and masters sweep rower and I say, "go for it!" Once my son is older I'm looking forward to going back to it. I'm sure you've already heard the motto, "That which hurts me only makes me stronger." Good luck!

Mike Gorman said...

I once heard long ago that the letters in Fear often stand for False Evidence Appearing Real. Thanks for sharing an outstanding post that encourages all of to reflect on the past year as we all decide to set goals for the new one. Keep up the coaching attempts, you will find it rewarding and afterall, good coaching is really good teaching!
Happy New Year!
Mike Gorman