Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fear and Rationality

Wow it has been about 4 months since my last post! So sad. But it goes to show my schedule and abilities to endeavor into my creative outlets (aka that endeavor does not exist). I have not, however, stopped thinking.

This brain is like a train line, always moving, sometimes on schedule, sometimes a bit off. If thinking could be classified as a spiritual gift, I would say that I possess it. Along with the ability to think and analyze comes an understanding of most possible outcomes in situations. When I consider everything that could possibly happen in all situations of my life I run myself pretty ragged, engendering fear and anxiety that paralyzes. Luckily, after 23 years of life, I have learned to cope somewhat, especially in the last few years thanks to the help of counselors (official and unofficial) and some very loving friends. As I have breached the surface of my unbridled sea of anxiousness, I have noticed that I am not the only one who suffers with this crippling fear. There are many of us! It's so weird how alone I felt in my anxiety, especially alienated by the ones closest to me who suffered from their own anxieties. It's quite maddening.

Nevertheless, I have emerged from beneath the abyss, and now I am prepared to gaze at the reflection permanently situated on the surface. Fear and anxiety are not the way we are meant to live. They trap creativity and the ability to take risks in any situation. I was raised to be not only cautious always, but never to take risks. Always seek comfort and success because you wouldn't want to embarass yourself by looking like you don't have it all together. I don't know that my family meant me that harm, but that is how it manifested, and I can't help but think about the countless children that I have see, am seeing, and will see in my life. Am I continuing the vicious cycle of imparting my own anxiety into future generations? The short answer is no. The long answer follows.

I currently work at a preschool that is rooted in the Montessori Method of education. For those of you who are Montessori ignorant (as I was before I started working there), basically speaking it is a method of educating based on scientific and developmental research that promotes independently paced learning based on student interest and motivation. We structure everything logically, focusing mainly on one aspect of learning at a time, with self-checks so that the kids can know when they do a work correctly or incorrectly. Direct feedback during the learning process. It is pretty amazing-- we have a few 4 year-olds who are delving into material that is first grade level work, and I think those children would have been overlooked and simply out of luck in the regular classroom (or regular preschool, for that matter).

Within the idea of logical learning, we use every moment in our daily life as a moment to learn. A kid is throwing a fit because he doesn't want to put his coat on before we go outside...unfortunately, it's not an option for him to stay inside because it is our outside time where the whole class goes outside. He consequently has two options-- he can put his coat on and come outside, or he can not put his coat and come outside. The teacher has many other students to attend to, so the option of the teacher fighting him to put his coat on is, in fact, not an option. The kid chooses to stand behind his decision to not put his coat on, he goes outside, he's very cold, he learns that it is his responsibility to keep himself warm by putting on his coat. Parents sometimes come into the picture not understanding how we do things, and they get upset to see how we handle a situation (especially the coat issue) because of course every parent wants their child to be comfortable and successful (my parents are exhibit A up above). The thing is, parents, you aren't promoting the best for your child if you aren't helping them think logically for themselves. Independent thinking allows for innovation and creativity, and if we stifle their opportunities to learn, especially at this formative age, we are not enabling or empowering them.

It seems to me that we all entertain irrational fears: fear of spiders, fear of snakes, fear of bugs, fear of heights, fear of mice in your house, fear of dogs, fear of abandonment, fear of failure, fear of embarassment, etc. These fears very well may be rooted in experience, but a lot of times those experiences are not consistent in our lives. I fear failing because I think people would not see me as a competent individual and that they would stop believing that I could make a difference in the world and in people's lives. That affects my whole life. But it's not rational. What people think of me only determines my fate to a certain extent-- I may not get that job that I wanted or I may lose the job I have, I may lose a friend or get a bad grade. Ultimately, my life would move forward, and I would forget about all of those things. Our fears are irrational whether they are rooted in experience or not.

Necessary Christian Connection (and the reason why I have been able to move forward in my anxiety issues)
God calls us to love and be loved and that perfect love, which he offers us, casts out fear. So why is it that some Christians I know are also the most insecure people I know? Shouldn't we look different from the rest of our society because our hope  rests in something so much bigger than our fears? I think most would say yes, but most don't know how to pull themselves out of their fears. That's where our community comes in. The church body that is promoted all throughout the New Testament. We are called to sharpen one another, to rebuke one another, to encourage one another, to speak truth in love to one another. Never are we called to propagate fear in one another or distance ourselves from one another or live alone.

That's where my mission comes in. Our school is that community for these kids. I have been put on this earth and in this particular job to help children see that they are safe and loved, if not all the time, at least by me. It's very difficult to promote that and live that lifestyle out fully and consistently because I am broken and still struggling with my own issues, but I have seen the benefit already of the little bit that I am able to do to help them. They are beautiful people already because my fellow teachers and I challenge them to think, to talk, to act, to deal with their emotions, and to walk through life logically for the purpose of staying grounded and doing their best. They are satisfied and proud that they can solve their own fights with friends and figure work out on their own. They are empowered and enabled, the lack of which is the plight of those impoverished in this world. I am thankful that I get this opportunity to help change the world in whatever small way God empowers and enables me.

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