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The CGC Blog

name that fears

How the intentional process of naming helps us overcome barriers to inclusion…

By Kevin Bartlett, Founding Director of the CGC

“S/he was filled with a sense of nameless dread….”. There’s a reason for that horror story cliche. The amorphous, unformed anxiety has more power to paralyze us than the known and explicit. That’s why those 02:00 am worries are so hard to shake off when we’re awake enough to be anxious, but not conscious enough to categorize our fears and put them to bed.

I think it’s a similar story when certain learning stakeholders hear of our commitment to be inclusive in our schools, to actively pursue equity. Working under the banner of The Next Frontier Inclusion, we developed a practical, powerful way to combat the unnamed fears of some of our community. 

We call the workshop, “Name that Fear!’. It’s simple to lead. Create 4 groups of participants and ask them to assume the role of teachers, leaders, parents, and board members. Ask each group to discuss and pinpoint some regularly expressed or assumed worries about ‘being inclusive’. For every ‘pattern of concern’ you notice, give it a name. Then work on practical strategies to neutralize the fear. A very 'unpolished' example is included in the attached pdf.

The examples here are ‘quick & dirty’, but you get the idea. Much of leadership is ‘pattern-finding’, so being observant and intentional in seeing ‘tendencies’ is a powerful leadership capacity. So is ‘naming’. Many indigenous nations place great significance on the power of a name. It gives us more control, empowers us, and makes us feel that if we can name the pattern, we can plan strategies in response.

This works just as effectively when we want to cultivate and build upon a positive pattern. Then the tool becomes NOTICE/NAME/NURTURE.

So here’s a suggestion. Don’t leave our educational fears lurking under the bed. Be brave and intentional. Drag them out into the light, give them a name, and we’re some way towards combating the fears that may otherwise prevent us from doing the right thing.