Saturday, September 14, 2013


      FEAR.  It’s a crippling and stifling condition that is not conducive to many positive things - including learning.  But that is exactly the overwhelming conditional plight in education.  Everyone is scared.  That’s right scared.  We are scared to ask questions, deviate, experiment and especially FAIL. 
     Fear of Failure is a well-known challenge or hurdle that prevents anything truly great from happening.  All major progress and successes throughout time were made possible by experiencing and navigating failure.  It is well documented that trying new things, then re-designing them after documenting how they failed, ultimately leads to greater success.  So, if we are afraid to fail, then we are essentially afraid of getting to a higher level of success. We are essentially afraid to learn and adjust from our mistakes – also simply called real learning.

(courtesy of Emily'

      In schools, teachers are afraid to deviate from the pacing guide or textbook.  Administrators are afraid of not getting funding or some governmental stamp of approval.  Leaders are afraid to break or even re-write the rules.  We’re all afraid to ask questions, dream big, or certainly leave or re-design the template. 
      And in the end, we’ve created learning environments where students are truly afraid of authentic learning.  Students have become slaves to points, grades, syllabi, the rules, A-G, SAT, GPA’s and more.  They are afraid to deviate, ask, create or stray.   
       So, they are afraid to truly learn.  As implied, real or true learning only takes place when one is invested, involved and personalizing that experience.  And that cannot take place when one is afraid.
Since we in education love science, data and documentation, let’s identify this fear appropriately.  According to a variety of resources, including Wikipedia, it’s called ATYCHIPHOBIA. 
       Encyclo, the on-line encyclopedia, defines Atychiphobia (from the Greek phóbos, meaning "fear" or "morbid fear" and atyches meaning “unfortunate”) is “the abnormal, unwarranted, and persistent fear of failure. As with many phobias, atychiphobia often leads to a constricted lifestyle, and is particularly devastating for its effects on a person’s willingness to attempt certain activities.”
      Wow!!!  Doesn’t that sound like exactly what’s happened in education?  Have we constricted learning and our learning environments?  Has our system produced students and educators who now have an unwillingness to attempt certain activities?  We are constrained.  We are stifled.  We are shut down.  We are crippled.  So, we are afraid. FEAR dominates our daily professional and educational lives.
        It’s such a huge problem and concern that it’s now being studied itself.  There is now TOBEPHOBIA - the fear of failure specifically in education.  Researchers are now acknowledging this and studying it.  And in an age of educational reform and new approaches, we need to collectively identify and tackle this issue of Tobephobia – the fear in education. 
        Indeed, try this experiment.  Go to school on Monday and throw out a new idea to anyone.  That’s right.  Throw out a new innovative idea to students, teachers, administrators, parents or others and see how many different ways they will tell you how that won’t work.  The negatives or layers of impossibility will be flying and the positives or paths of success will be few.  That’s not because any of these people are bad people.  It’s because they are scared.  They are scared of being wrong, scared of making mistakes and scared of failing.  Sadly, it means we’ve made them all scared of LEARNING.
      Actor Bill Cosby said it best – “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.”

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