I have just started reading I’d rather be in the studio: The artist’s no-excuse guide to self-promotion by Alyson B. Stanfield. A quick flip through the pages gives me the feeling that it will be a book full of information to underline and apply. For now I am contemplating page 2. She asks “Are you more afraid of failure or success?”
What if I answered that question myself? What if I asked my students to answer that question? What if I could know how a student who challenges me might answer that question? What if I have a character in a story ask this question? Would the way I approach my work/my life/my writing, change?
It’s a variation on a theme I’ve heard before. Yet the way Stanfield embeds it in her message is powerful. For the writer, the artist, the teacher, the librarian, the family member that I am, this question can transform me. Will I let it?
I have to ask myself how the fear of success may play into how some of my students deal with learning. Peer pressure is intense. Last week, I watched a group of boys groan when they heard we were going to read Cinderella. Some of the same boys were nearly jumping out of their seats minutes later to have a chance to tell what happened next in the story. When I had them vote by a show of hands, more boys indicated they enjoyed the Cinderella variation we read than those who felt differently. Not only did they feel they weren’t supposed to enjoy the story or know the answers, they certainly weren’t supposed to want the pair of glass slippers cut from paper. And yet one boy, oblivious to the scolding of the rest of them, openly showed he liked the whole thing. Boys aren’t supposed to remember fairy tales and girls aren’t supposed to be good at putting things together. Or so I have been told by the under 6 crowd lately.
This leads me to wonder what other things my students may be pulling back from engaging in. What cultural pressures make them fear to achieve? What personal experiences have made them feel unable to succeed and therefore not a player?
Sometimes I have to pry the answers from some of my students. I meet with success only when we are at the check-out counter and the room is too noisy for them to be noticed by others. What if those students were not afraid of either success or failure? What chances would they take?
If you are intrigued by Stanfield’s book you can find out more at IdRatherBeintheStudio.com. I can’t wait to see what is in the rest of the book!