Be Brave or Be Desperate

I had lunch with a former colleague — I”ll call her Laura — whom I hadn’t seen for some 20 plus years. She’s now retired and was in my town for a wedding.

I got into my car, entered the restaurant’s address into my phone, Google Maps said I’d arrive at 12:05 PM, and I was upset for thinking I lived closer. I texted Laura to let her know I’d be 6 minutes late. She texted back, “No worries!” (I hate being late, it’s rude and arrogant.)

I instantly recognized her. Of course, she was wearing an Oregon Ducks sweatshirt. We hugged, and the waitress showed us to an empty booth. Laura reminded me that she still needed to get a pair of TOMS after lunch because of the blisters she got from walking all day yesterday in her new shoes. I then reminded her that 20 years ago, we were in Nordstrom for her to buy new underwear because she was too lazy to do laundry.

She handed me two gifts wrapped in The Sunday Oregonian COMICS — one dated November 8, 2015, the other July 3, 2016.

We both regretted that neither one us thought of the Dammit! Doll. I mean, Jesus, just look at its mishappened head and scraggly yarn hair. I could have made that.

I really wanted to order a thick juicy burger because this place could put together a great thick juicy burger. But Laura said she wanted to order something healthy, so I opted for the turkey sandwich instead. (Who goes out and orders a turkey sandwich when it’s readily available in your own fridge at home?!) Then Laura ordered, lo and behold, a goddamn burger with two strips of bacon! (For a split second, I wanted to tell her that there was a burning car outside right behind her, so when she turned to look, I could steal her bacon.)

When we were colleagues in Oregon, Laura was teaching math, and I was teaching science. We became friends on Facebook just this past year, and she learned from there that I’ve been teaching math and giving talks at conferences. She used the word “brave” to describe my speaking at conferences. She said it at least three times, “You’re so brave.”

I told her I was terrified each and every time that I accepted a keynote or featured speaker assignment. She looked puzzled. I told her that the honor of being invited was always bigger than who I was, so it was hard to say no. And I didn’t want to say no. My father, a math teacher his entire career, would want me to accept. I’d told my own three children that doing the easy stuff ain’t worth their time, so I accepted because I could hear my own voice preaching. I accepted the invitation to speak because I wanted to bring the voice of classroom teachers and students to the forefront. There are stories to be told, and they are fresh and alive.

I’m not brave, I’m desperate. I’m desperate in wanting to share what’s happening right now with the 100 students on my rosters. But I’m terrified that I might get their stories wrong. I’m terrified that I may inadvertently amplify our small successes and diminish our big failures. I must get it right — the-truth-and-nothing-but-the-truth-so-help-me-God kind of right — or I’ll die a miserable death. Back in December, at CMC-North, Dan Meyer had invited me and two other teachers, Shira and Juana, to be part of his keynote. I’m grateful to Dan for the invitation and was excited that we teachers got to share with a wider audience.

So, if you’re in the classroom, I hope you’ll consider speaking at conferences and workshops because the number of students you currently have is the number of reasons you have to say YES. Consider co-presenting with someone if it would be your first time; it is less scary that way. My first gig was with this tall white dude. Be brave, or be desperate, I think one is just a glorified form of the other.

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  1. Posted March 27, 2017 at 3:34 am | Permalink

    Thankyou for this post Fawn, presenting at conferences has always been a daunting thing to me, it took me a long time convince myself that I could do it, and it still doesn’t feel quite right. You mentioned about not wanting the stories wrong, about not amplifying successes and diminishing failures. I think that for myself, and for others I have spoken to the reluctance to present can sometimes be the opposite, we amplify our failures and diminish our successes. We never quite feel that what we are doing is working as well as we would like and therefore we don’t feel it is at the point that we can share. I know that I have often felt that there a lot more teachers in the audience who should be up the front instead of me. But over the years I came to the realisation that I didn’t have to stand up there and share an idea that is working prefectly well, we work in schools so there will always be times when it is not working so well. When someone asks you to speak whether it is within your own school or to a larger conference they are doing it as they think you have an important story to share, something that others would benefit from hearing, they see something remarkable in what you are doing, even if you don’t realise it yourself.

  2. Kim
    Posted March 27, 2017 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    So thankful you are brave, Fawn! Hope I get to see you at CCTM in Colorado in the fall. Stay strong, girl. Your message matters!
    Ps…order the burger

  3. Sammie
    Posted March 27, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I was so happy to hear the voices of teachers as the keynote at CMC North. Thank you for your bravery.

  4. Bruce
    Posted March 27, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Looking forward to hearing you speak at CMC-South (Palm Springs) in October.

  5. Dan Anderson
    Posted March 28, 2017 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
    -Nelson Mandela

    (put “woman” into the quote)

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