Friday, December 17, 2010

Week 14: Do Not Worry Alone

One of the first pieces of advice I got at this school was, “do not worry alone.” On the surface, this advice seemed a little odd. I’m starting at a new job and I was being advised to share my “worry” with other people and show them how incompetent I was at this job up front.

Sharing my stress and vulnerability with other people seemed to go against own goals at this school to establish myself as a professional who knew what he was doing. How could sharing with other people my own insecurities impart them with any confidence that I could effectively do my job?

As the months passed I encountered problems that made me worry and often I would ask for help and get great advice, which helped me avoid unnecessary stress. Were there things that I was worried about that I shared with others? Yes, but they were things that I had a handle on, things that I had solutions to already.  It wasn't so much a sign of weakness in this context but a sharing of my ability to handle things.

Last week was a little bit different. One of my grades was preparing to perform in a Holiday pageant and things weren’t going as planned. It should have been evident to me working with them in their separate classes that things were not going to come together in the way that I predicted. My failing become painfully clear in our first of only two rehearsals before the performance.

My students couldn’t get through the song and it was all my fault. I didn’t account for the way the instruments sounded different on the stage. Rushing through the previous classes, I didn’t present the parts in a way that the students felt comfortable with and now here I was two days before a performance and I was getting really worried. The difference this time was that I had no idea how to fix this.

After that embarrassing rehearsal I went back to my office and another one of the music teachers who was at the rehearsal asked me what I was thinking. I told her what I felt wasn’t working and how I was trying to figure out what to do. She asked me if I was worried and I told her I was very worried and didn't quite know what to do.

For the next half an hour I met with two of the other music teachers. We hashed out multiple solutions, different plans and a variety of approaches to make this performance work. During this process, I realized by sharing my worry wasn't just about me. 

I love helping people with problems. Maybe I do more of that than let other people in to help me out. I have a sense of wanting to prove to others that I know what I’m doing, but frankly, I there's no need for that. I have done more “firsts” in the four months than I’ve done in the past four years. If I wasn’t “worried” there would be something wrong with me.

Sharing worry is not showing a weakness but a strength. Being worried is an expression of wanting to make something better and caring about other people. There’s never a need to hide this. It is in letting other people know that you share in these feelings that we learn not only how to help others but also to help ourselves.

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