Moving from the Fear Zone to the Growth Zone | Steve Barkley
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Moving from Fear to Growth

While researching for a professional development session that I am facilitating on relational pedagogy, I found this diagram titled, “Who do I want to be during COVID 19.” I thought that it is a valuable reference for reflecting on one’s personal status and identifying how your colleagues, students and parents are responding.Who do I want to be during Covid-19? The Fear-Learning-Growth Diagram.

The Fear Zone is defined with these statements:

• I grab food, toilet paper, and medications that I don’t need.
• I spread emotions related to fear and anger.
• I complain frequently.
• I forward all messages I receive.
• I get mad easily.

The Learning Zone is defined with these statements:

• I start to give up what I can’t control.
• I stop compulsively consuming what hurts me from food to news.
• I identify my emotions.
• I become aware of the situation and think how to act.
• I evaluate information before spreading something false.
• I recognize that we are all trying to do our best.

The Growth Zone is defined with these statements:

• I think of others and see how to help.
• I make my talents available to those who need them.
• I live in the present and focus on the future.
• I am empathetic with myself and others.
• I thank and appreciate others.
• I keep a happy emotional state and spread hope.
• I look for a way to adapt to new changes.
• I practice quietude, patience. relationships, and creativity.

Looking at my own reflections, I had these thoughts. What are yours?

My over all sense is that I am most often in the learning zone and consciously stretching to the growth zone as frequently as I can. I know the Fear Zone is triggered by my inability to travel to my daughter’s family. Grandkids grow so fast. Both had birthdays this month and I needed to watch presents, that Amazon delivered, being opened on FaceTime. Pretty sure I complain a little too frequently. Having spent the last 35 years, rarely having a week that I wasn’t on a plane, the last 8 months of no flights feels strange.

I think reflection time is a key for me to be in a learning mode. A fortunate element (appreciation) is that I am quarantined in Switzerland where forests and a culture of walking are present. My daily hikes were initiated as a weight control strategy have developed into a time for the examination of my emotions and a time to be aware of situations and to think about how to act.

optimism word cloud on a digital tablet with a cup of coffee.

Thinking about and helping others is probably my strongest pull into the growth area. As I worked on this blog, I made a connection to my earlier study and writing around optimism.  Alan Loy McGinnis, author of the Power of Optimism, pointed out that if you consciously implemented the behaviors of optimist you begin to be optimistic. I sense the same is true with the behaviors identified as indicators of growth. If I consciously take on a behavior like “making my talents available to those who need them,” there is a good chance that other growth indicators like “a happy emotional state and spreading hope” emerge unconsciously.

Music teacher Jon Schwarz shared an illustrative example in a recent podcast. Jon’s district asked specialist teachers to take on a task of mentoring English language learners online during the quarantine. Jon shared, “I was just like the kids — unhappily disconnected from the school community that made up a huge part of my life. As soon as I started mentoring Vanessa, a second grade English language learner, my “funny teacher” persona re-emerged. My three daughters saw me laughing and smiling again — something they hadn’t seen much since the lockdown began.” This shows the power of consciously practicing a growth behavior.

As we consciously look for “ways to adapt,” I believe we can tap our “creativity” and discover changes in our practices that are better than previous practices that we may have clung to if the pandemic had not occurred. One example, that I have heard repeatedly, is the discovery that Zoom parent conferences have been creating a participation and communication surpassing our historic one- or two-day event at school. They will likely continue in many schools beyond the quarantine.

Beyond guiding your own reflection, the Fear-Learning-Growth diagram can provide a way to identify and empathize with your students, parents’, and colleagues’ current conditions. Consider ways to create opportunities for those you are supporting to consciously practice a growth behavior and gain the reward of new unconscious growth outcomes. One school I partnered with arranged for the staff to join together in school shirts and masks to take part in a local cancer fundraising event. I am certain that growth elements emerged.

Learn and grow.

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