Teri Vance: Teaching students to face fears

Jason Gardner competes in the newspaper toss during the End of Bike Week Party on Friday evening in McFadden Plaza.

Jason Gardner competes in the newspaper toss during the End of Bike Week Party on Friday evening in McFadden Plaza.

Today concluded my oral communications class I teach for Western Nevada College’s Jump Start program. This is my fourth year teaching the course to juniors at Dayton High School — the first class of a two-year program that allows them to graduate high school with an associate’s degree.

(As an aside, I have so much respect for full-time teachers and professors. It’s intense work).

As I have in years past, I concluded this session discussing with students their fears and anxieties as they move forward.

Along with being overwhelmed with the amount of work ahead of them and worrying about balancing the workload with sports and socializing, the majority of them are gripped with a fear of failure.

And I get it. No one wants to fail. We even ascribe a certain morality to it.

I just had the conversation with my mom where I told her I used to associate guilt and shame when anything went wrong — proof of God’s displeasure with my life.

I’ve tried to take a more objective look at things now, assessing what went wrong rather than blaming myself for just being wrong.

I asked people to share their experiences with it and insight into overcoming fear, and their responses inspired me.

Marie Walter said she spent her youth terrified of fear, so much so it kept her from trying new things.

“My mom forced me to take cake decorating classes with her and then forced me to enter a cake in a contest,” she recalled. “I was so sick with fear. I knew I was going to be laughed at. My cake took second place. That put my fear into perspective. Now I still have my fear, but I realize and remember that fear only holds a person back. I try to teach my children that failure is a good thing. It is a valuable learning experience.”

Artist Deana Hoover pointed out giving in to that fear blocks creativity.

“No one walks into their first class with the ability they wish they had,” she said. “People know what they want to create, but will not be able to create it. It can take months or years to learn what they want to learn. It takes a special kind of courage to persevere, and there are many who get upset and quit. But those who quit never, ever learn the skill. Those who continue will get it, and they inspire me when I need to learn something new.”

For Amie Miller, it’s a matter of pragmatism.

“I figure what’s the point in being afraid,” she said. “I feel it quite often but I’ve got stuff to get done. So I jump in.”

I think she’s onto something here. Life is short. So much shorter than what we think when we’re young. And we only get this one shot at it.

Yes, we’ll be afraid. And that fear is good. It motivates us to work harder and be prepared.

But, in the end, we don’t have the time to let fear win. There’s a big life out there, we just have to be brave enough to live it.

Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at terivance@rocketmail.com.


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