Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fear of Sharing

Over the past few weeks I've been thinking and analyzing of ways to improve.  I've thought of ways I personally need to improve and I've thought of ways our school could improve.  As I analyzed myself I kept thinking of ways I could personally grow as a leader.  The first two that I came up with were, professional development opportunities and enhancing best practice throughout the school.  I also began brainstorming creative ways to recognize staff and strengthen relationships.

Then I shifted my thoughts to our school.  I started digging into data and trends.  I looked at our strengths and then I looked at areas I believe we should be better in.  The area that I pinpointed was Writing.  

I've read articles and books, I've attended conferences and the common message is that Reading and Writing go hand-in-hand.  I hear it, but then I think of my own personal experiences.  

As a student growing up I despised writing.  The first question out of my mouth would be, "How long does it need to be?"  Looking back I know exactly why I didn't like to write.  I was afraid.

The story begins in 6th grade.  Our class was given an assignment.  We were supposed to write a narrative piece about someone special in our life.  I wrote a four page paper about my grandpa.  I put my heart into my writing, I shared my true feelings and I didn't even bother to ask how long it needed to be.  I still remember writing about our nightly adventures on the golf course, our Sunday morning trips to every little diner in the county and the countless times he gave me advice.  A week later I got the paper back.  At the top of the paper it read, "C+".  Then I started looking at the paper and it was full of red markings.  My teacher said I needed to work on my use of commas and that I had a few run-on sentences.  On the last page the teacher said, "You had some nice thoughts, but you need to clean up your grammatical errors."  I was upset, not angry, my main feeling was sadness.  I felt like I just got slugged in the gut.  I now felt as though I couldn't share my paper with anyone.  I felt embarrassed that I had made grammatical errors.  This completely overshadowed my message.  The rest of the year I wrote in a very guarded fashion.  I kept things very short and very plain.  I focused only on grammar.  I despised writing.

As I got older I freely wrote in my journals, but my formal papers were mediocre, I had no desire to, "put myself out there."  Essentially I was a very timid writer that was afraid to make mistakes.

In college I wish I could say things turned around, but they didn't.  I had my girlfriend (future wife) check all my papers.  I'm sure this wore on her, but I was afraid to share.  I had very low confidence when it came to my writing.  She knew this, and I'm thankful she was there for me (and still is). 

As a teacher I vowed to not have this mentality with my students.  I urged my students to write descriptively, (I called it salsa writing).  I also encouraged them to use the five senses in their writing.  I tried hard to get my students to "paint a picture".  I felt as though I was getting a lot out of them.  Yet as we met as a grade level to assess each others student papers the main comments focused on conventions.  I would then go back to my class and teach grammar lessons.  I'll admit, my students hated these grammar lessons.  I can still remember the moans and groans when we discussed subjects and predicates.  

Then I transitioned to Principal...

About a year and half ago I read two blogs.  The first one by @PrincipalJ and the second by @CurtRees after I read these blogs I decided to begin blogging.  I believed and I still believe that I have experiences and thoughts that others may learn from.  I also thought it would help me to blog.  I could clarify thoughts and grow personally and professionally.  I still have fear to share.  Even after 60+ posts I feel apprehension.  I fear my posts will be full of errors.  I recently read a post by @ColinWikan (Your Perception is not always Realityit was his first post and it talked a lot about perseverance.  Each time I get ready to publish I pause, I remember the time I received the C+ and all the red markings.  I know I've got good ideas, but I also stress about putting myself out there.  I must persevere in my own small way.

As I now come full circle I focus on the area we need to improve on.  Writing.  I don't think we need to improve on the grammar, I believe we need to encourage our students to share.  My belief is simple, we as educators must help students take risks and not WRITE in fear.  Our focus must be on creating a passion for writing and sharing.  Too often our students have a fear of sharing.  As we look to next year I challenge you to bring a mindset of creating a culture of healthy risk takers.  Will your students blog?  Will your students journal?  Will your students share?  Will your students write each day?  How will you create a culture of writers?

The big questions this week are: Do you fear sharing?  Have you been contemplating blogging, if yes, what's stopping you?  If you have created a love of reading in your classroom/school, how will you create a passion for writing?  

Keeping You Up To Date:

*  The summer shuffle continues!  Mrs. Kristy Soper is now the new Young Five's teacher.  Congratulations Kristy : )

*  In less than a month there is a wonderful opportunity taking place in Grand Rapids.  Check out the site and let me know if you're interested in attending - RTI Conference in Grand Rapids

*  Summer get together, the painting has begun!  Don't miss out on the fun and join us as we brighten up Warner!

*  Summer Coffee Talk?  If anyone is interested in meeting at some point this summer I'd really like to get together.  Email me if you're interested : )

Articles Worth Reading:

Videos Worth Watching:

Student-Driven Learning (16 min)

#ISTE13 Closing Keynote by @adambellow (Powerful message! Inspiring!)


  1. Great post, Ben! If you want to see the really great part of the #ISTE13 Closing Keynote by @adambellow (Powerful message! Inspiring!), START AT 23:00 (minutes). The stuff before that is okay, but it's Adam Bellow that really is worth the watch!!!

  2. What a great read. Thoughtful, vulnerable, and real. I learned something about me from reading about you. Thanks!

  3. Ben,
    Thank you for your open, honest and reflective post. I can really identify with the fear you so accurately describe. It gets in my way -- I need to push through it. It is tough stuff. I also agree that while it is hard, it does open us up to learning and growth. I look forward to reading and learning with you.