This blogpost has been sitting in my drafts for a couple days now, as I was unsure whether I should post something which is so personal to me, so publicly, exposing my vulnerabilities to the world, or at least to the odd MFL teacher who may be reading this. I was inspired to write this by the lovely Rachel Ball, after reading her blogpost entitled, ‘How to fail as a teacher and leader’.
In school if a teacher called on me to answer a question my cheeks would flush and my heart would beat so loudly that I was sure my fellow classmates could hear it. Occasionally I would be brave and put my hand up to offer an answer, and even then I would have that same anxious feeling in my chest, that would usually last until the end of the lesson, but I would go home and proudly tell my parents that I’d contributed to a class discussion.
Despite wanting to be a teacher ever since I can remember, there was a time when the thought of standing up in front of a group of teenagers scared me so much. During my PGCE I lost so much weight, because on those days where I had a lesson straight after lunch I just could not eat.
Thinking of how I am now, I’ve come such a long way and it’s hard to imagine that I was ever like this.
I imagine some of you will be reading this and finding it ridiculous.
I so envy those people who are naturally extroverted and confident. I am forever comparing myself to these people. I look at colleagues so early on in their career who have already achieved so much and worry that, 8 years in to my career, my lack of confidence and inability to believe in myself has held me back all this time. As the saying goes and as Rachel Ball pointed out in her blogpost, “comparison is the thief of joy”.
A while ago when I was already lacking in confidence and feeling quite low, I decided to step out of my comfort zone again and did something that genuinely terrifies me - public speaking. It didn't go how I wanted it to, and I came out of the presentation with my confidence in shatters. I had spent weeks planning this, practising this and worrying about this and the whole experience completely knocked my confidence to the point where I told myself I would never do anything like it again. It just wasn’t worth the worry.
For ages since, I have avoided anything like this for fear of feeling like that again. I have turned down some truly incredible opportunities over the last year or so.
If this lockdown period has taught me anything it’s that I haven’t been living life to the full. In her blogpost Rachel quotes the author and journalist, Elizabeth Day, “What does it mean to fail? I think all it means is that we’re living life to its fullest. We’re experiencing it in several dimensions, rather than simply contenting ourselves with the flatness of a single, consistent emotion. We are living in technicolour, not black and white.”, and then says “I know I for one, want to live in technicolour.” I'm starting to agree with Rachel, as daunting as it is.
After turning down yet another incredible opportunity about a month ago I decided that I was going to try to slowly build up my confidence again. I had a discussion with a lovely friend and fellow MFL teacher who suggested starting off small and signing up to do webinars. I was brave and put my name forward to share some ideas on the Linguascope Show and Tell webinar. This would only involve me speaking for 5 or so minutes, along with 8 or so other panelists. “Nice and simple,” I thought, “I’ll ease myself in”.
Luckily I only signed up a few days before so there was only a couple of days’ worth of stressing. There was A LOT of practising in the days leading up to this, that my poor husband was subjected to watching, and a hilarious moment where I mentioned my MorganMFL “BLOB” instead of “BLOG” and then could not stop laughing (luckily I said the word correctly in the actual webinar). I had prepared cue cards and stuck them around the side of my computer screen. And despite listening to my usual motivational song of choice (Eminem – ‘Lose Yourself’, in case you were wondering), I was still a bag of nerves on the day: feeling sick, nervous tummy, unable to eat much, heart racing, dry throat.
I also wasn’t quite expecting there to be so many people watching (221 people watching across the world). And to make it even more nerve-wracking the legendary Joe Dale was there too. I can’t remember exactly what happened during my presentation as I’ve already blocked it from my memory, but I did it and I’ve survived to tell the tale!
I’ve had some really lovely messages via social media since then (thank you!) Obviously my inner critic has already tried to convince me that these people could all tell how nervous I was and they are just saying these things to be kind and give me a confidence boost. Even if that is true (which it most likely isn’t), I should be proud. I know it will seem like something so insignificant to many people, but to me this was a big deal. I stepped way out of my comfort zone. Yes I was incredibly nervous. Yes I said, “erm” far too many times and probably forgot to smile. And no, it was certainly not perfect. But I did it. And perhaps if I keep doing these things, if I keep saying yes, then eventually the crippling nerves will dissipate, just like they did with teaching.
As I said, I really wasn’t sure whether I should share this, but if it helps just one other person like me do something out of their comfort zone then it’s worth it. And hopefully I’ll look back on this post in 10 years and marvel at how far I’ve come.