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A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

As Educators, Let’s Embrace Our Own Fear. Here Are 10 Strategies to Consider

By Anthony V. Lipani — April 30, 2020 4 min read
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Today’s guest blog is written by Anthony V. Lipani, a physical education teacher in the West Irondequoit Central school district (N.Y.).

As a physical education teacher and administrator for 27 years, as well as a husband and father, these past couple of months have been surreal. While my wife, Cheryl, who is also an educator, and I practice our own self-quarantine at home, we understand time and time again that this is not a vacation. It seems that every hour on the hour we experience different feelings. We go from deep breathing to being filled with a sense of fear to some sort of acceptance, and then back through it all over again.

Trust me when I tell you that fear leads you to doing what is essential.

This fear reminds me of a personal health issue I had a few years ago when I suffered a heart attack. After the initial survival, I feared, and still do from time to time, if the heart attack would find a second round. Are the life changes that I am making enough ... this time? What other issues are around the corner?

What I also found is that it made me reflect on who I am as an educator. We spend so much of our time focusing on being teachers, and our identity is so wrapped up in it, that we sometimes struggle with who we are outside of the school walls.

Who are we supposed to be right now? We all have students who need us. However, those who need us more are the people who we love and love us. If you find yourself locked within the confines of your property, you are not alone.

Cheryl and I have decided to handle this change using the list as follows. This list comes in no particular order. Please know that we are not proclaiming to be experts in handling a pandemic. What we are suggesting is that we embrace the fear and use it to propel us through this unprecedented moment in time:

10 Fear-Busting Strategies to Consider:

1. Stay informed - Don’t let the information you read impact you in a way that will bring you and your family down. Read, read, read valid information from credible sources.

2. Stay active - Walk, meditate, perform yoga, stretch, do yardwork, clean your garage, basement, shed, and get outside to just breathe. You will be amazed at how much it helps.

3. Share information with your family - If you have kids, keep them informed without scaring them. Take time to talk about it and allow them the opportunity to ask questions.

4. Stay social - Whether that be with your personal friends and/or loved ones. Keep in contact with those who are alone. Make that call, use Skype, send that text, show that love.

5. Teach a kid to fish - Teach them how to do some sort of outside sport in nature, even if that means you learn it with them. Hike and observe the spring equinox. The birds are the indicator that spring is here and that the cycles of life are alive & well.

6. Play - Have fun with your spouse or partner. Walk, laugh, crack jokes, and talk to each other. Know that you are both experiencing this feeling of unsureness and that it is OK to talk about it.

7. Use music to relieve stress - I spent the entire day outside this past Wednesday, breathing fresh air & listening to all types of music. Music is the doorway to the soul. Music makes everything better.

8. Slow your roll - Percolate your coffee! It makes you slow down, which is something we all can use at this time!

9. Use social media to foster social interaction for kids. For example, my wife, Cheryl, is currently planning a Facebook group for students who will be missing their canceled talent show this week. The group will allow for the entire school to post videos of their child’s performance or creative artwork displaying their amazing creativity & talent! The kids need this outlet to celebrate their creative nature.

10. Find Your Happy - Now is the time to do whatever makes you happy and healthy, without compromising the health, safety, and welfare of others.

Fear has many dark adjectives that describe it: dread, fright, alarm, panic, terror, trepidation, and agitation in the presence or anticipation of danger. Fear is the most general term and implies anxiety and usually loss of courage.

However, we should consider embracing a much lighter excerpt from one of the greatest thought leaders, President Abraham Lincoln, who endured so much as he led our country through some of the most challenging moments in United States history. “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and a beer.

Anthony Lipani has spent 27 years as an educator, coach, & leader. Anthony is a father, husband, and physical education teacher at Rogers Middle School in the West Irondequoit CSD in Rochester, N.Y., a former assistant principal, athletic director, state championship-winning football coach, heart attack survivor. Anthony stepped away from his administrative roles after his heart attack to focus on his health & family. Visit Tony’s website here.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.