Opal School closed in 2021. You can continue to access these resources for free at teachingpreschoolpartners.org/resource-library/.

Scared and Brave at the Same Time

Scared and Brave at the Same Time

This year, in the Primary Group, we are thinking deeper into the idea of “self.”  As stated in our Letter of Intention to parents at the beginning of the year, we are particularly curious about the children’s growing understanding of themselves.  We believe understanding of self is foundational to all relationships – relationship to one another, to the environment, to materials, to the world and so on.  With this lens, we are paying close attention to the children’s interest, play, interactions, relationships and connections to find visible threads connected to the idea of “self” and a way in to help us dig deeper into this big idea.

It is exciting to find out that this is not hard to do.

51c4yhpi0gl-_sx258_bo1204203200_One day, in the Maple Room, we read Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully,  In this picture book set in 19th-century Paris, a child helps a daredevil high-wire artist who seems to have lost his braveness to fear.  The children began digging into the emotions of the high-wire artist, and more specifically, into the idea of being brave and scared and if it was possible to feel both at the same time.

The children were not sure about this concept at first as they shared their initial feelings of uncertainty that the two emotions are able to live together in one scenario.  Then they began thinking about situations in their own life that are connected to this idea of being scared and brave at the same time.  They shared their connections with their community and realized together that the two emotions are both important ones for us as strong and brave people.

As the children were reflecting on the times that they experienced these two seemingly opposite emotions in their life, they were able to think and remember a time where these two emotions were present in their bodies at the same time.

“We were going ice skating and I stepped on to the ice rink. I felt scared that I would fall. I skated anyway.” -Ellie, age 6


When you run and jump at the end…I was kind of nervous because I thought I would fall…my body said, “Do it! Go now!” So I just did it! -Enzo, age 5

Times of great, concrete risks seemed easy for the children to grab on to as they began to name their emotions and feelings in certain situations.  These risky scenarios are important times, times that the children can easily recognize and celebrate their actions, even when it feels hard and scary. These physical and visible actions of risk and vulnerability are common and clear to most young children, but they are not the only circumstance where risk, bravery and fear come into play in children’s lives.

We see moments of children taking risks and creating moments where bravery and fear can be inhabitants together all the time.  Risky situations can occur in more subtle scenarios and can not only be physical, but also social and cognitive.  Children have the opportunity to experience risk when they are in new, unfamiliar and uncertain situations.  These situations can involve challenges and opportunities for problem solving in various ways.  They can also be scary and can provide that push to brave and follow through when you are in them.

Some situations that we observe the children in that may be moments of risk that can evoke the feeling of being brave and scared  at the same time are:

img_2275building with new friends…img_2365putting pen to paper and writing the words that go to our stories…img_2311“having a go” at writing the letters and words we want to share and make known…img_2511being a good and compassionate friend…img_2105letting our curiosity push us to uncertainty and wonder…img_2016working together with a large group to accomplish a task..20161103_135014and working collaboratively with a new friend.

In this time of uncertainty, we look to our community to provide the time, space and opportunity to try these risky things without the burden of hard and fast consequences.  Together, we are creating a safe space to be ourselves and try new things…even when they are scary.  These are our times of bravery.

What risky experiences are you encouraging?
How are you supporting the risk-takers?
How are children’s reflections helping you understand their experiences?

Please visit other Opal School blog posts that talk about the issue of risk in learning and in living…

Being Safe to Risk

Taking Risks

3 responses to “Scared and Brave at the Same Time

  1. I am provoked by your question – How are children’s reflections helping you understand their experiences. I also wonder – How do children’s reflections help them understand their own learning? I believe that reflection is essential for deeper learning. Do you have some strategies that you frequently use to help young children to reflect on their learning experiences?

  2. Kimberly,

    As a teacher at Opal, I’m also struck by this post and the teacher-reflection questions that followed. What an important issue to explore: being “SCARED AND BRAVE AT THE SAME TIME!” Isn’t that the habit of mind all of us are nudging ourselves toward all the time.

    At Opal we have an intention to reflect at nearly every post-curricular, post-exploring, post-experience occasion. We build the time in to share, whether it is a “one word sneak peek” into how a time-period felt, a post-it note drawing of how things came together, a Thinking Journal entry about an experience, a materials provocation to synthesize a particularly impactful time, or an all-group sharing of where we came to after a period of time. We believe in cross-pollination of ideas, excitement and knots. We care about sharing our accomplishments, our excitement in having to pause at a point along the way of an invention or concept, normalizing the struggles of working through ideas, or more than likely seeking feedback or input from our trusted group in order to move forward….
    We’d love to hear how you reflect with your students!
    Thank you for this post, Nicole!


  3. Holding fear and bravery within ourselves at the same time is a common discussion in our household. My husband’s favorite catchphrase for this subject is: “Being scared is how you feel. Brave is how you act.” I like this sentence because it reminds us that we cannot be brave without first being afraid. And yet, once we realize that, despite our fears, we are safe to risk, the actions we take are manifestations of bravery.

Comments are closed.