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What Fear?

By Amy Brownlee, Lausanne Learning

Fear is powerful. It is paralyzing. It causes even the most talented individuals to shy away from new opportunities. But fear has a much worse effect than not taking risks--it causes you to wonder “what if”.

As an educator, fear simmers in me, making me question my self-worth and creating paths of possibilities that could go untried. I consider myself an adventurer and seeker of new technologies and experiences, but when faced with the unfamiliar, fear takes over. What if I fail? What if my students don't learn what I expect? What if I disappoint them?

Becoming an EdCorp Founder was one of the most frightening experiences of my career. More frightening than my very first classroom of eager learners, and much more frightening than classroom management ever thought about being. Even though I had managed people in business before, this was different. What if we can't make a product people want to buy? What if we spend all the money and don't make a single dollar?

The summer before I began my EdCorp was full of what-ifs. Through the amazing encouragement of the RWS Team, I committed to the project and school began. Fear still lingered, yet with a team of people who I had never met by my side, I was determined. I was all in. I developed my curriculum around the business and incorporated several project-based learning opportunities along the way.

Every student was empowered to develop a product. They presented their ideas, along with the mathematics behind them, to their classmates. Votes were cast and winners, along with their products, became leaders. Even though I feared some of the products would not be effective or within our budget, I never skewed the results. The students were in command. When half a year had passed with no working prototype, it would have been easy to provide an alternative path for my students. Easy isn't always right! My optimism and perseverance was having an effect and students didn't give up. Spring break was nearing and we had revised every single product that won. We had our first pop-up shop on campus and sold $400 worth of product. Success! The students were elated and it reenergized our business. By the end of the school year, we had sold $1100 and provided 1,150 meals to families in need through our hard work and dedication to our endeavor.

Our work resulted in amazing gifts to our community, but that's not what I will remember most. What I will remember is every single reflection by my students. They learned how to work together. They learned how to fail, pick themselves up, and try again. They learned that math is everywhere and that it matters. They learned that there are people in our community fighting a much greater battle and they can do something about it--right now, as seventh graders.

The what-ifs can take control but only if you let them. While the negatives seem to outnumber the positives at times, the what ifs of the future are far too powerful to ignore. What if I don't try? What if everything is going to be okay? What if my students learn farmore than expected and do amazing things when given the helm of the ship? It is these what-ifs that keep me going. What fear?


Amy Brownlee is an educator in Memphis, TN. Follow her on Twitter at @abrownlee79.

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