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.
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
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:
building with new friends…putting pen to paper and writing the words that go to our stories…“having a go” at writing the letters and words we want to share and make known…being a good and compassionate friend…letting our curiosity push us to uncertainty and wonder…working together with a large group to accomplish a task..and 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…