I remember when I was in third grade. I had a huge crush on my teacher. One day we were doing this math problem, which when I think about it was like those sudoku puzzles that have become popular in the past several years. It was some kind of math puzzle, and she had told the class she was having a contest to see who was the fastest. Because I was madly in love with her, (despite her husband) I was determined to win. I raced through the puzzle, certain that I would be the fastest. I double checked my answers to make sure they were correct. I was about raise my hand when something incredibly unexpected happened. I froze. The room was quiet. I looked around at all my classmates furiously working on their puzzles. The room was silent. Our teacher was looking at us with a look onlyÂ a teacher can give. My heart was pounding in my chest. I willed my hand to move but it didn’t. I was about to lose my chance to win the love of my third grade teacher.
My other friend, who was in a different class was from my boy scout troop. We would go on these hiking trips once a month, and get to camp out. It was fantastic. I had just joined the boy scouts, and had just been introduced into the world of camping away from parents. It was kind of scary at first, but once we got up into the mountains, it was fantastic. We would hike for a few hours, and then find a nice place to camp. Once we set up camp we would go exploring. Sometimes we didn’t find much interesting, but once we found a rattlesnake coiled up against a rock. Normally my friend is terrified of snakes, but for some reason, out there in the wilderness, after hiking up a steep mountain trail, we were somehow able to feel less afraid. It was kind of like our fear transformed itself into curiosity.
It’s strange when that happens. You see this thing, and if you are not careful, all you think about is the bad things that can happen regarding it. But the secret is when you see this, in front of you, you can become curious. Curiosity is a wonderful thing to have. It can help you discover new things, and figure out problems, and overcome obstacles. All you have to do is step back from your fear, and seeÂ this as an opportunity.
Which is what we did with that snake. We didn’t get to close, but we found a long branch that had fallen of a tree. We took turns prodding the snake, and making it strike towards the branch. Naturally,Â we got in big trouble when we came back to camp. I guess adults in boy scouts get kind of upset when boys go off on their own and play with poisonous reptiles. But it was an experience I’ll never forget. We saw something that normally would have terrified us, but because of our shared experience, we were able to look at this with fascination and learning.
So I finally raised my hand, and if I thought I was in love with my teacher before, wow. The approving look she gave me and the wonderful feeling I felt when she told me I got the perfect answer in front of the class was one of the greatest third grade experiences that day. All from breaking through my imagined fears and boldly speaking up.