Fear and the Need for Courage, VSTE Part I

Last week I gave the Sunday Spotlight talk at VSTE’s annual conference. It was quite an honor to be asked and was, by far, the largest platform I’ve ever had. As I may never again speak to that many people I wanted to get it right. I chose to talk about courage and ways in which educators need to be courageous.

In planning for the talk I reached out to Pam Moran, the former superintendent of Albemarle County here in Virginia, and a role model to me in having courage in education. She generously answered many questions very thoughtfully and gave me so much to think about, as usual. I kicked off the talk with a quote from her responses to me: “I think courage moves us to do that which we otherwise fear doing.”

This quote got me thinking about our oldest daughter. She’s 15, a sophomore in high school, and another model for me when it comes to courage. She has an anxiety disorder that has impacted her life since she was at least in kindergarten. Due to her anxiety she is afraid to do many things. She’s afraid she’ll disappoint her teachers, or us, or her friends. She’s afraid she won’t measure up. She’s afraid she’ll embarrass herself. In spite of those fears, she takes honors classes in high school, she auditions for concerts, and she is a fierce advocate for her peers and herself with teachers, administrators, and others. She reminds me how and why to be courageous.

We watched this video together and my oldest daughter pointed out to me that she is the first cat and I am the second. She said, “Mom, you do that to me. Usually when I’m in the car before something starts and I won’t get out and go because I’m too scared. You push me out.” I don’t literally push her out, of course. But I do, at least sometimes, force her to do things that she is afraid of doing. Sometimes we need others to be that push, that kick in the butt, to help us be courageous.

This is especially true when it is easy for us to believe that our fears are founded.


Last summer we went to Spain and spent one day in Gibraltar. A few weeks before our visit a skywalk had been put in, like the one at the Grand Canyon, but much smaller. You can walk out on the glass and look down the Rock of Gibraltar. Well, some people can. I can’t. I have a significant fear of heights. I stayed back at a distance looking out. One of the panels of this skywalk, this very new skywalk, was blocked off because it was cracked. To me that was the universe telling me that my fears were totally reasonable, completely right. That walking out on that skywalk was a foolish thing to do. But my husband and my oldest daughter walked out there. They do not fear heights and they got to see a view I completely missed. Because of my fear. Overcoming fear is hard enough without the universe reinforcing the fear.

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