Monday, October 19, 2015


Every day when I open a new tab in my Chrome browser, I am greeted by the Momentum Chrome extension - a beautiful landscape, a friendly message, and an inspiring quote. Today’s quote was this:

Whether it was the meaning behind the quote, the particular word choice within the sentence, or even the person who said it, this quote has stayed with me all day. I’ve been preaching this mindset for a while, and believe in it so much, that it has become a message I internalize daily, while also publicly sharing it with other educators and leaders.

While this might be easy to say, fulfilling this mindset on a daily basis can be more difficult. I believe every educator pushes themselves, but it is the fear of being “paralyzed” that stops us from taking more risks than we do.

I’m particularly struck by the word “paralyzed” from this quote. Images flood my mind - frozen, stuck, unable to move or speak, wide-eyed with fear.

As educators, we do not typically associate ourselves with the concept of being “paralyzed”, and yet, many days we are just that. Our anxiety may take over us, filling us with fear of the unknown or the risk of failing in front of our students and colleagues. We may not want to try a new approach or a new tool, acknowledging that we do not know all there is to know or this strategy might not work.

We work in the learning business, and so we want our students to always be learning. If it worked last year to help students learn, then it must work again, right? We are perfectionists, always striving to do our very best for our students, so we must be on our “A”-game all of the time. The risk of trying something new may not be worth the anxiety, or being paralyzed, in the middle of our lesson. We become paralyzed with a fear of failure, because if it doesn’t work, then somebody might be watching.

Beyond our classrooms, as learning professionals, we also do not want to “sound” like we do not know what we are talking about in front of other educators, particularly educators we may not know well, and so we are paralyzed to step forward, paralyzed to jump onto social media to share our insights, paralyzed to reflect publicly in a blog post. It is not that we can’t. It is not that we don’t have valuable insights and ideas to share. It simply is the anxiety of the unknown feelings after these acts of sharing.

What if I shared an idea EVERYONE already knows?
What if I jumble what I really want to say?
What if…?
What if...?

At any moment, we all may be “paralyzed” with fear of something. But, we cannot allow this to control our abilities to take risks, try something new, and put ourselves out there. We must overcome these fears, follow great examples from other educators, and simply not be afraid to try.

In fact, we ask our students to try something new every day. Why shouldn’t we?

Lead by Example
I strive to lead by example, every day, not allowing myself to be paralyzed by fear of failure. I will take risks, teach myself how to do something, put myself out there on social media and in my blog, and strive daily to share. Daily, I push myself to grow.

Do I fail?
And I do so publicly.
I will not allow the fear of failure get in my way.

Do I have anxiety about failing?
Every day.
However, I will not allow this anxiety to take control of who I am and what I am trying to accomplish in my school.

I have taken many risks in my career. I have started this blog, for instance. Pushing the publish button for the first time was a HUGE risk. The “what if” scenario played in my mind continually. My vulnerability was public. Yet, I knew if I wanted others to reflect through a blog because I have seen the power of it, I had to push that publish button, leading by example.

Many would say I am a little “Twitter-crazy”. To put myself out there on social media was a risk, but it was definitely one worth taking. I learn daily from my PLN, share the great happenings of my school, and have an amazing tribe with whom I rely on for support, ideas, and growth. My PLN tribe pushes me to be better than the day before. This collaborative field of amazing educators has opened the doors of growth, pulled me out of the isolated silos that can be found in our schools, and empowered me to find my voice in the educational field. I am blessed and humbled by the inspiration this venue provides me daily.

Push Yourself
The most exciting part of any given day is when I see educators pushing themselves to be better as well, taking risks, not allowing that fear of failure to paralyze them from trying something new for their students. The mindset of being paralyzed is starting to wane, and I see a new rise of risk-taking, choice, and control over learning take hold in our schools. It is beautiful!

I see many of my teachers on Twitter, sharing, lurking, learning, and growing. Educators are collaborating, opening their doors for other educators, building their own professional learning networks, and setting their goals on growth and learning. I see teachers trying new tools with their students, feeling out of their comfort zone, but giving students control, empowering them with choice. Teachers are starting blogs, now leading a book study about becoming a connected educator. Classrooms are filled with new ideas, a hook to the lesson, inquiry and research.

By saying “yes”, “give it a try”, “take a risk”, and actually modeling what we wish to see, we aim to remove the paralyzed barriers from our teachers, so that they can create the learning environments they wish to see for their students. Teachers can feel the autonomy and empowerment needed to develop spaces and opportunities for students to explore, to create, be curious, to inquire, and take control of their own learning. If we do not push ourselves from our comfort zones, we cannot expect our students to do this either.

Every educator must move beyond the fear of failure, and push themselves to grow and try new strategies and ideas for the betterment of their students. Our students’ futures depend on our willingness to model this mindset in all we do.


  1. Interesting thoughts.. Do you think it's really fear of failure that inhibits educator learning? Saturday I gave a talk on designing interactive presentations. The attendees were teachers. Not being a K-12 teacher the context of my application can be considerably different than theirs.

    I was struck by two things during my talk. One, it was difficult to engage with them. I was reminded of learners in the back row not engaging. I put it down to the context mismatch thing. The other thing I noticed was when I got to a particular point in my talk some teachers remarked about a specific way they could apply what they just heard. This was a good thing. I took it to mean that for a moment I connected a little deeper with some of the teachers.

    As I design/refine presentations I have to consider how teachers' contexts affect their "fear factor", if it is fear that keeps them quiet.

    I continue to take risks, trying to get it right. It's teachers like you sharing that helps me improve. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for reading, Urbie! I believe fear is ONE of the attributes that prevents educators from taking some big leaps. In our hearts, we want to do the best for kids. Taking risks could lead to failure, and we don't want to hurt kids. This is one aspect I continue to think about and how, as a leader, I can help ease those fears so that more jump in!

  2. Never saw "it" as being paralyzed. I viewed "it" as being asleep, apathetic, haggard or simply uninterested. Good points.

    1. Thanks for reading! I see fear as the biggest factor. Those others may be there, but only for few. Stepping out of our comfort zones can be scary to start! I continue to try to learn how I can help other educators push through it all!

  3. Wow!! I'm seriously reading this for the 2nd time and tears... I totally get this! To look at the fear of being insufficient, insignificant, or simply unintelligent is the panic I face every time I send an email, newsletter, or now blog post. In a million years paralyzed is not a word I would ever want associated with me or about me, but it IS exactly where I was. I had a pretty cool educator give me a jolt that pushed me from paralysis, and I'm so thankful. Great post! One spark... Hanks for the positive post!

    1. Thanks for reading & so glad you made that jump!!!