Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Environmental Fear

Please correct me if I'm wrong. I've been thinking and just want to get this out of my head.....

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I'm guessing that for many readers of this blog, the classroom is a comfortable place.

We know the rules.

The rhythm and flow are predictable.

We are confident that we can at least be in the middle of the pack - if not the top of the heap - in any given classroom situation.

We've seen all sides of the environment.

And, chances are, we've had more positive experiences in the classroom than negative ones.

As a result, going into education as a profession wasn't that much of a leap.

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How comfortable is that environment for our students?

How many walk into your classrooms with nightmares of past experiences? Being told that they were stupid? Lazy?

How far back do these memories go? How deep-seated are they?

Are they going in with an expectation of failure? Being made a fool of? Exposed as a "phony"?

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I'm beginning to understand how powerful past experience can be when walking into a given environment.

Each time I walk into the gym, memories of all of my athletic failures come flooding in.

Being picked last for kickball / dodgeball / softball / soccer.

Disappointing teammates with my inability to catch the ball / make the point / get the out / close the frame.

Coming in last in running / swimming / rowing / bowling.

Being the slowest / weakest / least coordinated person in the group.

The resulting demons haunt me before each workout. Nevermind the welcoming environment, supportive coaches and friendly gym-mates. Nevermind that after 98% of the workouts I look back proud that I've accomplished something (and had "fun" in a masochistic sense). Just setting foot in the gym some days is a victory.

Watching the members of the coaching staff go out of their way to make people feel welcome, I wonder if there really IS anything we can do as instructors to alleviate the anxiety.

Celebrate the small victories?
Encourage a focus on the small personal triumphs?
Discourage comparison with other people's performance?
Just be welcoming?

I suspect it all goes back to what motivates you.
What drives you to overcome past performance.
What makes you work towards a goal.

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What do you think?

2 comments:

Judy Unrein said...

Wow, Wendy... that really hits home.

Really does.

I definitely fall into the category of those who have had a lot of success in the classroom... and lots of -- er, lack of success in the gym.

Thanks for framing this thought. We could always do with more seeing things from our learners' perspectives.

Wendy said...

Yup - a real kick to remind us the importance of our anxiety-reducing function.