I used to hate speaking in front of the class. I remember being so nervous once when I had to recite a poem in high school that I could hardly talk.
And one time my Spanish teacher asked me to read something, but I read it too quietly. He asked a girl on the other side of the room if she heard me and she didn't. He had me stand in front of the class and read it again.
I could have died from embarrassment. I tried to speak louder, but I didn't even realize I was so quiet. I don't think I even knew how to be louder.
He asked her again if she heard me. She couldn't, so I had to read it again. Finally I think she just lied about hearing me so I could sit down. I'm sure the teacher was trying to teach an important lesson, but his technique had the opposite effect on me. Instead of learning to speak louder, I just learned it's best not to try.
That memory came back to me when I watched the clip below from Dead Poets Society. I had looked the scene up for what I planned to write about here, then I remembered that experience.
The awkward moment (and how I felt about speaking in school afterward) sums up a fear I had to get past if I ever wanted to be a good teacher. One thing I've learned since is we all have to fight that battle with fear, even if it manifests itself in other ways.
I've been doing a lot more music in school lately and I'm amazed at the fear and resistance I've encountered in the students and teachers I've worked with.
At one point I was trying to stretch this student while we were making a short music video. She considered herself a singer, so I wanted her to improvise a melody for some lyrics. She said she couldn't. Looking at only the words she said in frustration, "I can't just sing it."
I pressed play in GarageBand to start the beat. "Do it. Just sing something."
She was a little inhibited because a few other students were in the room, but we were pressed for time. She gave it a shot. I was impressed with what came out.
I found out later the lyrics weren't exactly original. They had copied them, more or less, from a website they found. As far as I know, though, the melody came from her heart.
I was proud of her for just singing. She let it flow out at the risk of sounding terrible or maybe being too much like Happy Birthday or something.
But I can think of four other people, two of them adults, who told me in recent weeks how they wanted to sing, but how fear holds them back. In the big scheme of things, most of their opportunities were small. It's not that they were saying no career in music.
But what struck me was they had a chance to move closer to a dream. They could do something new and to possibly experience a beautiful moment.
But it was diverted because of fear.
How much do we do that everyday? How much do we choose a sense of safety over a chance to come alive? Seth Godin talks a lot about how we give up opportunities just to avoid fear itself, maybe not even the thing we're actually afraid of. We just avoid fear.
In protecting ourselves from fear and what we fear, we actually squelch life itself.
I think the solution is to find something we want to live for so much that we overcome the fear. There's a verse in the Bible that says perfect love casts out fear.
I can't yet find all the words I want to say about this. I have to live it better first myself. I can't get this to flow to a nice conclusion, so for now here's to being a little more passionate.
- throwing some thoughts out that I feel strongly about before I can think it all through.
- putting more of my songs online even if I'm not a great singer and musician.
- thinking about it instead of just saying, "I can't," when asked to speak to any group of people.
- saying what needs to be said even when no one else wants to go there.
- standing on desks more than I used to when teaching.