I can be a big scaredy cat. The usual stuff scares me: high cliffs, bad turbulence, near accident misses. I have a few other fears too, like those big creepy crawly bugs with tons of legs. Ugh. If you have a couch handy, maybe I could share the rest of my neuroses sometime! But I’m also not afraid to do things that others might find scary, like meeting new people or fooling around with technology.
We’re all a mix of courage and fear. I am kind of afraid of crashing on my bicycle, but I still ride. I can’t let that get in the way. I get anxious if I have to share remarks in front of a big group of people. I’ve found ways to prepare and be true to myself, but I still wear a dark coloured shirt on those days.
Donna Fry, Ontario educator and thought provoker, recently explained courage in a wonderful post that’s worth a read. She chose courage has her #oneword back in January. She describes the courage to look at what is not right and to act. And this:
“The courage to let people rise up out of the little categories we put them in – to have a growth mindset about our coworkers and not just our students.”
Donna interrupted my thinking with this idea. I realized how I often decide on someone’s character, strengths and skills, and there they go – into a nice little box that keeps everything all tidy. The irony is that I’ve experienced it from the other side, and it’s not fun. A supervisor decides that I am serious, so therefore, I have no sense of humour. A colleague sees me speak up for something I believe in, so I must be fearless. (Ha!)
I once embraced advice from experienced teachers to reflect on the students in my class regularly. I would take a class list and think deeply about what I knew about each child and what I could still discover. I’ve taken that further with the school staff list when I was a principal and with the principals and vice principals I work with as a superintendent. I now need to include a less rigid way of thinking about my colleagues – what are they capable of? How can I encourage their growth mindset as well as my own?
Let’s have the courage to challenge ourselves. When we do the effortful work of changing how we think about others and being open to everything they are and have to offer, imagine how far we can go together.