When I was younger, I was painfully shy. I mean…seriously shy. My parents described me as a quiet, mousy little girl to strangers and frequently referred to me as their “Velcro child” as I appeared stuck to my Mom’s leg wherever she would go. I wouldn’t even talk to my Grandma and would send messages to my brother who acted as my spokesman whenever I needed or wanted something.
You can imagine my despair on the first day of Kindergarten. I probably cried more than all the other students combined. I remember my teacher, Mrs. White, crouching down to me instructing me to blink quickly so my tears would swiftly fall from my eyes.
Many years later, when I went away to college, I received a notecard with the following verse on it:
Two years ago, this verse was on repeat in my mind as I prepared to move 2,000 miles away from all my family in Chicago to a new life in Seattle. Now, I often reread Joshua 1:9 when I think about how I became a teacher, a role model that helps and guides others, when I’m so introverted myself.
How do we learn to be courageous? How can we encourage our children and students to be brave? This school year we will focus on being courageous in our lives as God has commanded us to.
“If you’re like me, the notion of “risk-taking” kids conjures up images of broken bones — or even worse. Yet whether it’s a baby tasting a spoonful of strained spinach, a toddler taking her first steps, or a preschooler telling the truth about a mess he’s made, all kids need a courageous spirit to adjust to the surefire changes that come along with growing up.”
– Robin Westen
Without struggle, courage isn’t born. Children must learn from their own mistakes and difficulties and encouraged to fight the fear to fail. Mistakes should be celebrated as opportunities to learn and be creative. This will allow children to willingly tackle tough problems as they gain strength from taking risks. It’s tempting to protect children from obstacles, frustrations, and failures but doing so often deprives children of the confidence to overcome challenges.
In our classrooms, we strive to create a culture that promotes courage. Specifically, in Project Based Learning (PBL) students have a voice and choice in decisions about the project, how they work, and what they create. Students need courage to make decisions and be confident in their thinking. Additionally, students may run into obstacles causing changes in their plan or projects that didn’t achieve what they intended to. Students are provided opportunity to reflect on ways to overcome these challenges and ways to revise their work. Despite being scared or afraid, in Project Based Learning students participate in a public display of their work by explaining, displaying, or presenting it to others. Speaking and sharing your ideas and opinions to others definitely takes a lot of courage.
Encouraging optimism, hope, and determination allows a child to gain confidence and a courageous spirit that carries over to the next obstacle.
For a list of books about courage, click on the books covers below or visit:Courage Building Books