Take Ralph’s Advice: Always Do What You Are Afraid To Do

A play in three acts.

By Joanna Waggoner

Setting & Characters: A computer lab full of third graders and one teacher whose hair is clearly coming out
Act I: In which we lose control
  I look around the computer lab: about half the class is experimenting with the Macintosh Photo Booth application, taking a series of photographs of their tongues sticking out, their nostrils flared, and their faces distorted using the application software.  The rest of the students are either watching the other kids or staring at their screens with puzzled looks, their hands waving in the air.  I have just finished a minilesson on how to use an entirely different program (iMovie), so I’m not considering this an ideal situation.  I start ticking off everything that is going wrong in this moment—only one or two students are actually using the correct program, a large group of students aren’t doing anything (and it doesn’t appear they will start until I answer whatever questions they have), and the rest seem to be playing around.  This is chaos.
Act II: In which we drown in self-doubt
In this moment I think: I see why there is no one else in this lab.  How am I supposed to help half the kids open up the program we’re supposed to be using and get the other half off another program and back to where they’re supposed to be when I’m uncertain of the best way to teach these skills because I’ve only just mastered them myself? I’m not sure I’m even introducing the right skills at the right time!  Am I scaffolding properly?  Should we just be typing these stories in Word?  Do we really need to know how to create digital stories?  Maybe we should be using Photo Booth today, not iMovie.  Maybe they should be working in pairs instead of alone so that I’m not running all over the lab answering questions the students have already answered for themselves.  Maybe—no, certainly, there are a hundred better ways to be doing this!
Act III: In which we realize our awesomeness
I stop myself and think: This is uncharted territory for us, but we are moving forward.  I embrace my own courage and boldness!  No, today will not be perfect!  Yes, I will embarrass myself in front of my students by revealing that I don’t know anything about myface or Space Book or whatever it is!  No, I will not know how to save that photo to the desktop!  But, yes!  I am learning with my students!  Yes!  I am giving it my all!  And, yes, I will learn to be comfortable with a little bit of chaos because I know, deep down, that out of this chaos will arise something incredible. I will do what I am afraid to do, and we will ALL learn because of it!
Technology can, for some of us, seem an especially daunting subject to teach because we feel we lack the know-how or confidence to start.  But to sum up what a student told me, just start pushing the buttons and eventually you’ll figure it out!  Be bold, be ready to make mistakes, and be ready to laugh with your students (and at yourself!). Technology is here to stay, so let’s get literate!
 Title quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: Always do what you are afraid to do.


3 thoughts on “Take Ralph’s Advice: Always Do What You Are Afraid To Do

  1. Jill B. June 16, 2010 / 9:58 pm

    Ha! Is this a true story?!? It could be! Thanks for encouraging us to try new things…even things we’re nervous about! Also, I like your use of “Snap Shot.” That is something new to me, too!

  2. Yadira June 28, 2010 / 10:03 am

    Many educators are afraid to make mistakes, especially, in front of a room full of students. Yet, with technology we must be prepared to make mistakes, question and FREEZE for a while, but we must move forward!

  3. Maryela Garcia Garza June 30, 2010 / 2:22 pm

    I liked the quote: “Always do what we are afraid to do” it makes things a lot more interesting. Not only that, it shows our students that we are always learning, reflecting and risking.

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