What would you do (as a teacher) if you weren’t afraid?
I am having a tough time answering this question because it makes the assumption that all teachers are afraid. I had a wonderful discourse with my American Literature students a few years ago. I proposed the theory that everything we do as human beings is out of fear; that all decisions we make can be traced to a fear of something. It was a wonderful argument that left several students disliking me for the remainder of the semester.
I am playing devil’s advocate here because I suppose one could argue that everyone is afraid of something, but I do not like being told that I am afraid without justification.
So what am I afraid of as a teacher? Obviously, my greatest fear is losing my job. However, based on past experiences, that isn’t even true. You would think that my fear of getting fired would override all other instincts, and if I were a logical, reasonable person, I suppose it would. But it doesn’t.
My biggest fear is losing myself in my job. What I mean by that is that I don’t ever want to become an automaton of the system that I am in. I do not want to lose my perspective because I fear losing my job and therefore am willing to give up my core beliefs. For the most part, this hasn’t happened in my teaching experience, but I read about it happening all the time in other schools. I would give up my job rather than give up my core principals.
With that said then, it is hard for me to pinpoint something I want to do as a teacher that I am afraid to do right now. Maybe I’ve conquered my fear. Maybe I just do not want to admit that I am afraid. Maybe I’m just too stupid to realize that I should be afraid. Whatever the case may be, I take risks in my classroom. I speak out when I feel that there need to be changes made. I never want to let my fear of losing my job or getting in trouble outweigh my personal ethics and values.
I think I get too into teaching Emerson and Thoreau and I start to take their essays to heart.
But here is one that my siblings talk about (they are also teachers)…. having one day of amnesty when teachers can tell all students exactly how they feel about them. That would make for an interesting school day. So I guess I could say that I do fear hurting my student’s feelings. I don’t want to be that teacher they remember ten years from now who made them miserable. I’m not sure how that fear makes me a better or worse teacher, but it does play into the equation.
Addendum… I want to thank the powers that be for giving me the prompt to write all of these blog posts this month. Very empowering and enriching.
I also want to add that since I graduated from college, I have been thinking about redoing school entirely. I don’t know how we got caught up in this factory-model of education, but it doesn’t work very well for quite a few kids and it causes major issues that we ignore or sweep under the rug.
If I had no fear, I would start my own school system with my siblings and other Free Thinkers™ to develop a system of education that embraced the power of thought with much less emphasis on the overlords of standards and testing. We would embrace the strength of human curiosity and intelligent discourse. There would be no grade-levels or grading or 40 minute classes. Students would be allowed to discuss and learn and grow from one another and their teachers in a much more thoughtful, mindful way.
Today, I was working on our study area and several students were sitting together helping a freshman girl write an essay. One of the other teachers came over to tell them to be quiet. I was sitting there, so she apologized. But she would have yelled at them and told them to get to work. They were working. They were doing honest collaboration. But they did not fit into the “sit and be quiet” model that we have embraced in this bizzaro-world of education.
I am not quiet. Most people are not silent. We do not learn in silence and in perfect order. Learning can be fun and chaotic and noisy. In fact, I think it should be. If things get broken, and people get a little out of control, and risks are taken and boundaries are pushed, and new worlds are explored and thoughts are exploited and enjoyed, then we learn. We learn and the world learns. And we become happier, healthier people through our mutual distaste for order.
Rock on! Keep on Rockin!
Socrates is my hero.