What SCARES you?

I have a sign that sits in my classroom beside my computer. It has become my teaching mantra for many years. It says, “Do one thing everyday that SCARES you.” On my particular sign, Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with this quote; however, no one really knows the true origin. These sentiments have been shared numerous times over the years, and I always considered it a driving force for my teaching. I like to think outside the box. I like to try new things in my classroom. I like making my kids think in new ways. Trying something new has never been an issue for me. I’m open to new ideas and suggestions, and I’m willing to give anything a try before I write it off. Do I feel like I live by my mantra? Not really.

I have often tried new ideas that made me nervous, but I seldom try anything that really SCARES me. I began to think about what really makes me afraid. What holds me back from becoming the teacher I want to be? Doubt? Self-criticism? Fear of failure? The thing that really scares me…The thing that keeps me awake at night…The thing that holds me back…is opening my classroom door.

I’m going to make a confession here. I’m somewhat of an introvert. I can carry on a conversation and play the game at meetings and professional development, but the reality is that I am questioning everything I say and do. Do I sound stupid? Do these people think I’m crazy? I was sitting in a professional development meeting a few weeks ago. The presenter asked us what we do in our classrooms to reduce the stress of our students. After prodding from a coworker, I reluctantly raised my hand. I said, “I know my students get tired of sitting at a school desk all day, so I provided alternative seating for them. I brought in couches, chairs, lamps, rugs, etc. to make the room more comfortable.” The lady barely acknowledged my contribution and pretty much brushed me off. The coaches sitting around me acknowledged what happened which made me want to leave. I made a joke to hide my embarrassment.

There are many teachers out there who do a wonderful job, but we often are content with shining in our classrooms. We are afraid to open our doors and invite other people in to see the great things our students are doing. I’m not talking about inviting your friend down the hallway. I’m talking about inviting that person that truly scares you. Ask your principal to come see the amazing unit you have created. Email central office and invite them to see your students’ presentations. Take a risk. Do that one thing that scares you more than anything.

Don’t worry! I’m taking my own advice. Friday, my students are sharing their passion projects. I have no idea what they will look like or if they will be up to my standards, but I’m taking a risk. I’ve invited two people from Central Office, my principal, and our instructional coach. I’m terrified, but I know it’s a step I need to take. Monday, our wonderful theatre teacher is bringing her class down to see a play my students have written. My students are different, but I’m pushing their comfort zone and my own. So, be brave! Go out there and do something that truly scares you!


  1. I'm scared too! One of the things that frighten me the most is witnessing someone ELSE fail when I encouraged them to do it. But, that just goes to show how much growth room I have. If we really do want our kids and ourselves to not be afraid of failure...well, we need to actually be prepared to FAIL together and for it to not only just be okay but to see the incredible value in it. We need to believe that it was worth it. That is so much easier to do in theory.

    Theory is full of fear. Action is full of learning.


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