I Am A Leader?!? Really???

I am an introvert. I have issues with anxiety. I can put on my actor face and speak in front of audiences, but it is not something I enjoy. I am really a very private person. I don’t like huge social gatherings, rather small, intimate evenings with my really good friends. Some friends ask how I can be comfortable in front of a class every day, direct a musical with 250 kids or lead a Ready Set Learn session…the short answer is that I call on every ounce of bravery and energy I have and just do it. I don’t like being the center of attention. I feel vulnerable. I feel exposed. It physically drains me.

I love teaching. I feel I was born to be a teacher, but that doesn’t mean that being a teacher is easy for me. I find teaching to be a very physical, emotional task. By the end of my teaching day, I am spent. I give my all to my students and hopefully they know that I provide them the best education I possibly can.

Over the past year I have stretched myself beyond my comfort zone to do things I never thought possible. I am a co-moderator for #kinderchat, I went to Las Vegas to #edcampkinder to spend four days with people I had never met (MY PEOPLE), and I will be hosting #edcampkinder at my school on Feb. 15.

I have also hosted many visitors to my classroom…teachers and administrators alike have asked to come and see what the KinderPals are doing. I am honestly happy to have them visit, but I would be lying if I said that it was easy to have them in. It terrifies me! I know my students will show them how wonderful they are, but I can’t help feeling vulnerable…exposed…on display.

For some, leading may be easy….natural, or comfortable, even. But not me. I wish it were more natural! I wish that I had enough confidence to overcome my fears and not be so anxious. Really. What am I afraid of? That people won’t like me or what I am doing in my class? It’s so silly…but so real.

Even more so, I find it unnerving to see myself on video. I blogged about a video I made for Jason Graham’s social media presentation at Learning2 conference in Beijing. It was easy to write the presentation, but knowing that others would be WATCHING me…I still feel uneasy about that. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy with what I presented, it’s just the feeling of permanence and transparency that video brings that makes me feel exposed. No longer am I working quietly away with my students in my classroom…the world has a window into who I am, what I am doing professionally, and that’s unnerving.

Most recently I agreed to be interviewed by Vijay Manuel, Vice Principal of W. J. Mouat Secondary School for a district meeting series called “Building Leaders”. BUILDING LEADERS?!? ME??? I don’t consider myself a leader…I am a TEACHER. I suppose that the title of teacher inherently includes the definition of being a leader (I hope so), but I teach children, not colleagues. Give me 20
Kindergarten students and I can work all day. 50 adults watching a 3 minute video of me? That’s not so comfortable. Once again, my anxiety level increased, I worried, I forgot EVERYTHING I said during the interview…but I had to trust that Vijay wouldn’t present me in a way I wouldn’t present myself.

So, here I am, thankful that Vijay edited the video in such a professional manner, thankful that I didn’t give in to my anxiety and say “No” when he asked me to participate, and thankful that I could be brave, step forward and be a leader.

KinderPals 2013 from Abbotsford Central on Vimeo.


***This post has been cross-posted on the #Kinderchat blog as part of #NaBloPoMo.***

A few of my online discussions of late have centred around the word CARE. More and more, I feel like CARE should be my classroom motto…rule…mantra…whatever word you’d like to use…because more than ever, I feel that sometimes our world has forgotten the meaning of the word and I think at it is my job to teach my students to CARE. Not in a worrisome, anxiety-causing way, but in a genuine, heart-felt manner. We all need to care about each other, care about ourselves, and care for the world.

The Virtues Project provides a wonderful definition of caring:

“Caring is giving love and attention to people and things that matter to you. When you care about people, you help them. You do a careful job, giving your very best effort. You treat people and things gently and respectfully. Caring makes the world a safer place.” http://www.virtuesproject.com/virtuesdef.html

First of all, we need to care for each other. We need to be concerned for each other’s well being, be it physical or emotional. We need to feel that the people around us are important and worthy of concern. We must value each other in order to care and act in a manner that shows that value…using kind words (in person and online), gentle actions and considerate manners. Job #1 in my classroom is teaching my students how to show their care for each other. It doesn’t matter if our conversations are face to face in our classroom, in writing, on twitter, or via Skype, we must always use care in choosing our words. Kind words and acting in a caring manner towards one another are expected in my class.

We also must care for ourselves. My students are only five, so they are still learning self-care…tying shoes, zipping zippers, washing hands before they eat…and thinking positive thoughts about themselves. This kind of care is crucial for my students to learn to grow up to be thoughtful of their own needs and health, both physically and emotional. Negative self-talk is something I discourage…instead I teach my students to be brave, to try new things and have confidence in their abilities. I try to teach them to care about the effort that they put into their work at school, and hopefully that transfers to caring in a healthy way about how they present themselves in life.

And of course we cannot forget about showing care for our world…both our immediate environment as well as the greater environment of our planet. It is irresponsible of us to throw our garbage on the ground, it is bad manners to leave our coats lying on the floor, and we all need to work together and care about our surroundings together.

The word CARE is not only important in kindergarten, it is important in LIFE. As a world, we must care more for each other, care more for ourselves and care more for our environment. There are so many caring people out there, but unfortunately it is the uncaring ones that often are highlighted in the media. Our world can be a dark, cruel place at times. I think back on 2012 and some of the horrific, tragic events…Amanda Todd’s bullying and subsequent suicide…the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut…the ambush of firefighters in Webster, New York…and it makes me wonder…what if CARE had a bigger focus in our homes and schools? Could some of these tragedies have been prevented?

If nothing else, we must learn from our surroundings and past events. Change now can’t bring back those we have lost, BUT we can make positive change for the future of our world. Bringing CARE into focus just might change the world as we know it, if we can only learn to really CARE about and for each other, ourselves, and our world.