Fear

Referring to the series of comments on the post “Go Willingly”, Skip asked me this:
Hi Ben,
Can I ask you what you meant on the blog when referred to your big learning as “allowing myself to be free when presenting…?” Just wondering. I was thinking it may relate to how I feel in front of my classes..?
I answered:
Skip we have to take our strait jackets off. We are so used to being judged. We get that thought (that we have to be really good at teaching) going around inside our heads like a hamster in one of those hamster wheels.
But thinking in this way creates tension, and it generates teaching that is awkward, inelegant, and very much the opposite of what Laurie was talking about how slow personalized circling can bring freedom to our teaching.
So for me this applies to presenting. If an audience is one that conveys love, even if it is 70 teachers like in Maine these past two years, I can relax and be myself. Only then can the presentation be a success. So it is in our classrooms.
This is why few “go there” with TPRS. They have to re-invent themselves as “more human”, if you will, and they may not feel safe doing that. No blame.
It is an amazing con game we do on ourselves. Certain people, were they to walk in on a presentation, just like with you in a class, raise my affective filter off the chart and I feel bumbly and not good enough. Fear fills me.
But it is so ridiculous. The person doesn’t want that. They are just wanting to see the presentation or the class. It is just so absurd, what we do to ourselves. When these people walk in, my mind gets instantly covered with little sticky notes about what I should be doing and, when that happens, I am pulled away from my heart center and, since TPRS is a heart centered method, away from good teaching.
Again, no blame. We will get better with this fear. It will take time, but it will get better. Hanging out with each other was so healing for us at NTPRS. Everyone there made me feel worthwhile. It’s ok to suck. I suck. We all suck. Now let’s get over ourselves and set about the hard work that we have to do now.
If our principals have no real clue of what we do, then we can forgive them and look forward to next summer. But for the work ahead this year, now is the time to reflect on how hard it is to bring change in the face of big doses of opposition (usually invisible) each day, and to try to let that fear you mentioned just roll off of us.
Now is the time, as we rest in the summer, to accept those around us who don’t like Kool Aid even though all the research and all the new work in standards and proficiencies are now saying that Kool Aid is the best thing ever for kids to have success in learning a language.
Let’s bask in what we learned and felt last week. Not for one moment will we be alone as we teach during this coming year.

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4 thoughts on “Fear”

  1. And truthfully, learning to present TPRS is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m convinced that co=presenting has saved me. Trying to be the teacher (“demo”ing the method) and the presenter (explaining the method) at the same time has been nearly impossible to do well. The presenter has to have two personalities available to the participants at all times. As a participant, co-presenting just makes my brain happier. Another lesson in the fact that we c annot do this alone…
    with love,
    Laurie

  2. As someone who lives in pretty much a constant state of fear, I was struck by the total exposure Ben opened himself to in both of his sessions I attended. It is one thing to attend a presentation and get ideas and see/experience the magic, and it is a whole other realm when you experience the vulnerability “in your face” like I felt in Ben’s sessions, where over and over he would make sure we knew “I have no idea where this is going.” This was so profound for me, because I feel that a lot…”I have no idea what will happen.” Secretly and very deep down I have always feel kind of excited by that…so many possibilities, but I am a good actor and I want to fit in, and I do have remnants of a controlling streak that pokes its head out occasionally, so I cover it all up with “shoulds,” thus making myself miserable. Then of course there is the whole thick layer of “if I were a real teacher I would know where I was headed and have a step by step plan to get there.” How many Septembers came where I said to myself “this year I will just follow the book and my life will be easier?” But of course, around chapter 2 (or before, because I would ALWAYS go off on some “tangent” about something the kids were actually into) I’d bail yet again.
    Anyway, I gained a lot of confidence (confidence in allowing myself to follow my intuition about being present) from seeing Ben in action because it was like watching myself. No exaggeration. I have heard Ben say “I just want to hang out with the kids and speak French;” this is exactly how I feel. And I also have another layer to it, which is that Spanish is part of my identity as a Cuban-American, so I take every complaint and insult (about the language and the class) personally. So over the years I eventually built this whole shell that began to look like “I don’t know why I am doing this. I don’t give a @$*% if these kids learn Spanish because they sure don’t give a @$*%. That is a very bleak place to be.
    When I look around at all the madness of overscheduled, harried and stressed kids who have no other models except for all the overscheduled harried and stressed adults in thier lives, and their school that “means well” and wants them to be “well rounded” I have always had the urge to JUST. SLOW. DOWN. This is where the real magic is. When you are out charging through the woods, you miss all the action, but when you slow down or even stop…that is when you notice all the wondrous life right under your nose. This is where the “juice” is. The juice last week was in the surprise and laughter around the ” very very small, excessively small purple package” and the “very large enormous yellow package” and the “dead possum / team awesome” gesture! Today or next week there will be different juice to taste, and we can’t know what it will be until we are in that moment. Terrifying and liberating at the same time!

  3. Wow, Jen. You have tapped the trajectory of all the feeling that I have had since I began my TPRS journey. That happens often on this blog. The level of honesty is very humbling and I thank you. Before I start each school year, I try to get in touch with my core self. I try to go to that place where I find calmness, peace and strength – a way to be engaged in a way that allows me to be in control of my emotions to the point where the unexpected does not throw me. I think that Linda Li shows that kind of magic – the place where she is in total control of herself and is able to go with the flow of the group in the sweetest of ways. Everyone was happy while we were locked on her every word. I don’t mean we should strive to be authoritarian, controlling or manipulating, but rather that we find an inner strength that, for me, comes from interacting with my fellow colleagues and attending events like NTPRS. It’s empowering in the best of ways. We get to strenthen our skills, commiserate and celebrate with friends, and go back into the classroom stronger, more optimistic, more centered and more able to weather those days when we quite frankly suck.

  4. That is real growth that you describe there, Carol. Anyone who thinks teaching is easy needs to read what you wrote. Ours is no profession for the fainthearted.

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