The following is a sample of a conversation I’ve had countless times with students out in the hall, at lunch, after school – just not in my classroom.
Me: “Why aren’t you taking my class?” (I teach trig/precalculus and calculus.)
Student: “I’m not good at math. It’s been hard for me.”
What I wish I would have said: “Do you think you’re going to get better if you quit?”
Them (and they usually bring this up, I don’t ask): “I’ve gained weight because I don’t eat right and I can’t workout.”
Me: “Why can’t you workout?”
Them: “Because I have pain in my (feet, knees, back, etc.)”
What I wish I would have said: “Do you think your (feet, knees, back) would have less pain if you were lighter? Do you think you would feel better if you were stronger and ate healthier food?”
I don’t say these things. I imagine that you all think I say everything I’m thinking, but I honestly do try to avoid hurting people’s feelings. (Although, I’m thinking the response to the student is reasonable.)
Math and Gyms – My Two Big Fears
I hated math in high school and the first time I went to college. Wasn’t any good at it. Didn’t get it. I didn’t finish college the first time and I had to drop out – a long story for another time, maybe. The second time I went to college, I intended to become a science teacher. Some math classes were required. I had no choice but to tackle it. I was attending the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and working as a temp to support myself while in school. One of my temp jobs was as a receptionist at a career counseling service for women. I was struck by the number of women using the service to change their career paths because, in order to advance at their current job, they needed to go back to school. The additional schooling was not the problem – they were afraid to take a required math course. They told me this specifically. More than one client told me the same story when asked why they were seeking career counseling. These women decided to start over completely to avoid taking a math class.
Wow. That is when I realized how I, and apparently many others, allowed my fears to define my life. Every fear and insecurity was a little fence around me, keeping me from experiencing something new, meeting new people, and growing. We all make choices that narrow our experiences – and we make them gladly and don’t regret them. Not talking about that. I’m talking about the things I wanted to do, but was afraid.
I promised myself back then that I would not allow fear to define me. If there is something I want to do, but it’s scary, I’ll find a way to do it anyway. It don’t really have a need to do scary things – I’m not a thrill seeker who likes adrenaline rushes. It’s just when I reflect and identify something I wish I could do, and I know I’m afraid to do it, that’s when I feel like my fear defines me. Stops me.
That decision years ago was made with faith and prayer. I was not on the right path and knew it. But I let fear stop me. Once I knew I had to face it and push through, everything changed for the better. Moved, met my husband, became a teacher, moved again, and now I’m doing all that and now there is this health thing. Not a day goes by that I don’t answer exercise and nutrition questions. My students ask questions. My friends ask questions. I get emails and questions on Facebook. I’m not sure where this path is leading, but I’m certain it’s the right path and I am not afraid.
Do you have a fear that defines you?