You, Me and All That Stuff We’re Scared of

School needs to put us on the spot. Again and again and again it needs to reward students for being willing to be singled out. Learning to survive those moments, and then feel compelled to experience them again—this is the only way to challenge the lizard. –Seth Godin, Stop Stealing Dreams

The lizard, according to Godin, is the physical part of our brain responsible for fear. My friend Sonya, who introduced me to Seth Godin, just wrote a post about how she has put herself on the spot and wrote a short book about something she is so passionate about. See her post on “Putting It Out There.” She made me think about how I put my students on the spot. I admire my friends who put themselves on the spot over and over again, and I know how hard it is. I joined a faculty choir the end of the last year and so far, we’ve performed three times. It’s scary. No, it’s terrifying. The last time performed, I had stage fright and had to make up the words during my solo in front of the entire student body and faculty (about 500+ people).

Being singled out is scary, but the more students feel comfortable in putting themselves out there, I think the more confident they are. This week, we finished up our PYP Exhibition. Exhibition is a culminating project at the end of the PYP. Students at our school figure out their passion and inquire into how passion leads to bigger things–like careers, helping others, getting involved. They do a personal exploration and then branch out to find out about something in the world connected to their passion.

PYP Exhibition 2012

Finally, they present to their parents one night and then all of the other students and students from other schools. Some of them joined our “Live Cafe” and performed tap dancing, wrestling, electric guitar, piano, singing. They were so brave. So amazing. All of them put themselves out there.

Students singing acapella

We talked about feelings before the big event, and most said they were nervous, anxious and wanted to hide. We practiced a lot, though. We watched a lot of videos and took in a lot of examples of how people present with confidence. And they were. All of them. From the extremely shy to the overly confident, they all did amazingly well. Reflecting back on the presentations the next day, all my students said they were happy and excited and felt so good about it. They’ve been glowing every since.

Speaking to students from other schools

I think my students will take the risk to be singled out again. I didn’t have to reward them with anything external. Inwardly, they’re glowing. They’re thinking about people laughing at their jokes, smiling at them as they are presenting, asking them questions. They had kids rushing to their booths to find out more about their passion. As much as possible, I want to keep singling them out in our comfortable environment so that they become risk-takers who will challenge and change the world.
And from Seth Godin also…
The lights go out and it’s just the three of us
You me and all that stuff we’re so scared of

– Bruce Springsteen


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