Using fear as an opportunity for growth

Over the course of this week, I have had the pleasure of chatting to the Year 6 students about their recent adventures in either China or Outback Queensland. By all accounts, the students certainly had an amazing time, visiting many iconic places, meeting interesting locals, experiencing a different culture or environment and sharing the memories with their friends and families. It was a time of growth and excitement, a learning experience to be treasured for a lifetime and an opportunity provided for the students to broaden their educational journey.

One of the core components of the College’s Values Statement is to create experiences for our students to help develop and promote the attainment of their personal best. The dedication of our staff allows the College to provide an amazing array of opportunities for students in which they can gain skills and achieve personal growth.  There are times though when these opportunities may not come easily for the students, or their parents. One of the barriers might be fear of failure, of the unknown, of what ‘could happen’ can be limiting and prevent students from participating in new and valuable experiences.

Our Year 6 students travelling to China probably experienced nerves, apprehension, uncertainty and the thought of home sickness before they departed. Many students within the Primary School might fear how they are going to cope with being away from home when on school camp, or be anxious that they will let their team down in a debate or a sporting game. They might not participate in a musical, a sporting carnival or a play because of the fear of what their friends might think, or as a result of limiting self-doubt. The emotions of anxiety and fear might be the major factor that inhibits a student from participating in an opportunity with remarkable potential for individual growth. 

The challenge for our students (and parents) is to not see fear as an impediment, but to view fear when facing something new or something intimidating as their ‘friend’; see it as helpful rather than a hinderance. It is not in our nature to step off into the unknown and not feel some trepidation, that’s how we are protected from danger, however, we can act in spite of our worries or anxious feelings.

For many students, they will face “first experiences at St Andrew’s" -  the making of friends in a new class, being away from home on trips, choosing activities or subjects, being separated from a friend on a bus or cabin group when on camp, performing during assembly or mixing with other students on a sporting team. These challenges can be scary. No one can truthfully say that students do not experience any fear or anxiety during their education. But the fear itself should not be limiting, but rather the fact that, by participating, fear will be overcome and a new experience will be gained. This is proof that children can succeed despite their fear.

We can take this one step further by encouraging the students to participate because they are afraid - to consider fear as an opportunity for growth, to seek a situation, recognise their worries, then attempt the challenge. Facing a fear with a sense of purpose places an individual in control of the emotion. Consider the inspiring quote by Robert Tew: Until you see fear as an opportunity for growth, you won’t grow beyond your current self.

When it comes to opportunities, not just at St Andrew’s but in life generally, I encourage our Primary students and families to accept that the fear factor is a natural part of starting down a new path. Encourage our students to identify and accept their ‘go to’ fears so they are ready for when they appear. Find the positives of fear and don’t aim to go around it or avoid it. Don’t use it as an excuse for withdrawal. If they accept and embrace some fear, it can work for them. It just might be a sign that they are ready to start a new challenge or direction that has been waiting for them. Identifying fear or anxiousness and allowing it to be a ‘friend’ can only assist in the development of self-belief, confidence and the personal skills necessary for an ever-changing world. 

Mr Rob Paterson