Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Hypothesis: Repeatedly exposing one's self to the source of fear reduces the effect of the fear.* I have lived this out and know it to be true.

For instance, when I started my job about five years ago, I was afraid of the elevators. Their reputation preceded them as I had been warned of their tendency to get stuck for lengthy periods while loaded with numerous occupants. I gritted my teeth and listened to my heart race each morning, vowing to ride only to the first stop or two and then to take the stairs. The problems with this tactic were multi-fold: (1) I was usually wearing heels, which weren't conducive to stair climbing; (2) the stairwells aren't air conditioned and often smell like cigarette smoke; and (3) their isolated use gives them a creepy factor almost commensurate with the elevators. So, I looked fear in the face and took the elevators every day. Most days I did it scared, and eventually the fear subsided.

I had the same experience with visiting emergency rooms. I had only been once as a child to accompany my sister to have her stomach pumped after eating a day-old sandwich that had been made with mayonnaise. So, when I started having abdominal pain in the summer of 2003, my first trip to the ER by myself was a bit scary. But after repeated visits and a diagnosis of gall stones, that fear of ERs went by the wayside.

I'm hoping that this tactic of reducing fear by repeated exposure will work for teaching as well. Going in this afternoon, I wasn't as nervous as last week. But then I had to wait almost two hours after arriving at the school to give my lecture. I had prepared more than last week because I had the day off, but my tongue and mind didn't quite keep up with each other when I began my lecture. Moreover, it was humbling to be corrected by students when the group exercises didn't go exactly as planned. (As a side note, none of the students dropped after last week, which made my heart sing.)

So, I'll be watching to see how this plays out over the course of the semester. I probably won't post a teaching update every week, but I'll let you know if there are any highlights.

*This isn't meant in the context of abusive relationships or criminal acts.


kasogayle said...

Please do post teaching updates!! I can't wait to hear about it. No drops? That's amazing!

Renae said...

You see? I knew they would all love you! Not one single student dropped the class!

And you had exercises! That is so much better than just a long lecture. And the fact that they felt comfortable enough to correct you says a lot.

I'm looking forward to hearing more, and I can't wait to see you at the NTCW conf!

TJ Wilson said...

clever footnote.

Britta Coleman said...

Yes, please on the teaching updates! It will get easier and easier. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

Alyssa said...

K - Thanks so much for the encouragement. I've given in to the requests and posted an update on class 3.

R - I'm so glad you'll be staying with the FW gals!

TJ - I wonder what part of my schooling prompted it??

BC - My hat's off to you Mrs. 8:00 Lecturer! Teaching that early in the morning would spark a whole other set of fears in me. With your natural gift for teaching as displayed last fall at the NTCW Conf., I bet you'll have students line up for classes no matter what hour you teach!

Krista said...

Will this tactic work with snakes in lake water???
Not surprised none dropped-- they know a good lecturer when they hear one!!