I’m very excited to have Frances Sackett on my blog today. The fact that she talks about being brave AND her third grade teacher just warms my heart.
First, I’d like to say thank you, Mr. Sharp, for inviting me to post on your blog. I’m delighted to be here.
I’ve been reading your blog and really enjoying it. I love the way you write about your students: your passion for teaching is obvious! It reminds me of my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Goudy. I truly believe that she’s the person who made me a writer: she encouraged me; she challenged me; she even typed up one of my stories and sent it to Highlights magazine. By the time I left her class, my fate was sealed, and I’ll be forever grateful to her for that. I suspect that you’re having a similar effect on your students, though it may be 35 years or so before they’re able to come back to tell you how much your dedication meant to them. Good teachers are magical in their ability to plant seeds that change people’s lives.
In reading your blog, I saw that your class message for the year is to Be Brave. I thought perhaps I could focus my blog post around that idea, since it’s something I’ve thought a lot about recently. It seems like an easy idea, being brave. Every third grader could tell you that it means not being scared, right? As a child, I always pictured the “brave person” as the one who barged into battle without hesitation, who never imagined ghosts in the dark, who set out on great adventures with a twinkle in her eye. But for me, it’s not that simple.
Here’s the thing: I have a lot of fears.
Some of my fears verge on ridiculous. I’m scared that I’m too overprotective as a mother—except when I’m scared that I’m not protective enough. I’m scared that lack of sleep will age me prematurely. I’m scared that my friends may quit liking me if I don’t have time to call. But some of my fears are more serious. I’m scared of letting down the people I love. I’m scared of trying my best and still failing at something that’s important to me. I’m scared of not being good enough at a moment when it counts.
Writing is the place where my fears converge. When I was a sophomore in high school, I took a public speaking class. The first time I tried to give a speech (to thirty people, mind you, most of whom were my friends), I ended up on the floor of the hallway, breathing in and out of a paper bag. Writing is just like public speaking—only worse. When you speak, people will eventually forget what you say. When you write, your words are around forever, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do if you regret any of them.
My fears sometimes color my days and keep me up at night. The one thing they don’t do anymore, however, is shape the choices I make. For years, I wrote constantly but never sent what I wrote out into the world because I was scared of rejection. I’m still worried about that—but I send my writing out anyway. Publishing a book has been the most terrifying experience of my life: what if people don’t like it? What if I get bad reviews? Or, worse still, what if no one reads it?! But I published my book nonetheless, and I’m hoping very much to publish more.
One of the things that I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that all the best moments in life happen when you make yourself vulnerable. This is true on a personal level: you can’t fall in love until you let yourself trust someone; you can’t make a best friend until you’re ready to share your secrets. It’s also true about writing. You have to risk negative reviews in order to get that kid who runs up to tell you how much your story meant to him. You can’t be open to the positive parts without leaving yourself open to hurt too.
And for me it’s worth it—it really is. For me, bravery isn’t about not being afraid. Bravery is about being terrified but doing things anyway.
And because our unconscious minds often speak more loudly than we know, this is what I wrote about in my book. I wrote The Misadventures of the Magician’s Dog at a moment when I was trying to find the courage to make some very hard choices in my life. Coincidentally, I wrote about Peter, a boy who is terrified of dogs but adopts one anyway. He’s terrified of conflict but ends up battling an evil magician. Worst of all, he’s terrified of his own anger, yet acknowledging and understanding that anger is critical to his magical powers. Though it may not seem like it on the surface, my book is really about Peter’s process of confronting his fears and making peace with them. And in retrospect, I can see that writing about Peter’s courage helped me to find my own.
I hope your students have a wonderful year—please say hi to them from me!—and that you do too. Thanks again for having me.
(And for the record, I’m also scared of publicly admitting all these fears… but heck, I’m doing it anyway.)
Monday, Sept 30 – I Am a Reader – Interview
Tuesday, Oct 1 – Read Now Sleep Later – Review
Wednesday, Oct 2 – Kid Lit Frenzy – Guest Post
Thursday, Oct 3 – Sharpreads – Review & Guest Post
Friday, Oct 4 – Mrs. Brown Loves Bookworms – Review
Monday, Oct 7 – The Serial Reader – Interview and Review
to be cross-posted at I Am a Reader
Tuesday, Oct 8 – Dee’s Reads – Review
Wednesday, Oct 9 – Paperback Writer – Guest Post