Fear vs. Resistance

I work with amazing educators.

Everyday I am challenged and inspired by the work we do and the conversations in which we engage.  Day after day impromptu professional dialogue occurs – in hallways, emails, via text, in staff rooms, offices, the library – almost anywhere.  These are not official meetings or scheduled workshops but rather the natural interactions that not only benefit students but rejuvenate educators in the never ending pursuit of meeting the needs of their students.

Today, however, I was inspired by a planned meeting of our literacy & inquiry discussion group.  This gathering of educators happens about once a month and we endeavour to lead and support our school community in developing best practices for implementing comprehensive inquiry-based literacy instruction in our school.  This is a gargantuan task that, of course, takes much more than monthly meetings to achieve.

One aspect of our dialogue today centred around risk taking in teaching practice.

We all feel fear in our own practice:

  • fear of epic failure
  • fear of failing our students
  • fear of being judged
  • fear of “doing it wrong”
  • fear of letting go
  • fear of admitting we just don’t know what to do next

But is there a distinct difference between fear and resistance?

I can fear change or I can resist it.

Resistance to change, to trying new things, to letting student voice & need guide our practice, and resistance to the potential of inquiry can paralyze us.  It forces us to take a stand against new ideas, resources and information.  It becomes personal.  If I give up my resistance I am giving in.  It is like losing a battle.

Fear of change, new things, relinquishing control, and fear of how inquiry will look in my practice is different.  Fear can be overcome.  I can choose to acknowledge and share all of my fears YET still be willing to face them.  I can come from a vulnerable, authentic place where I can admit to fear rather than stand my ground in refusal.  Fear does not necessarily prevent me from taking a risk and trying something new.

These simple definitions from Merriam-Webster online may highlight this difference.


  • to be afraid of (something or someone)

  • to expect or worry about (something bad or unpleasant)

  • to be afraid and worried


  • refusal to accept something new or different

  • effort made to stop or to fight against someone or something

  • the ability to prevent something from having an effect

It is clear to me that fear is a state of being.  The above definition describes an emotional response to something new or different.  But that emotion does not necessarily need to dictate my actions.  I can choose to push through those feelings and still embrace new ideas and educational practices. I can choose to face my fear.

Resistance on the other hand is defined by action – “refusal to accept”, “effort… to stop or fight”, “ability to prevent”.  This definition is not grounded in emotion and vulnerability but, in a conscious choice to act as a barrier to change. Once I take a stand of resistance changing that stance becomes personal. I have essentially chosen the “hill I want to die on” and coming down from that hill might just be too much like admitting defeat.

I am sure I have been resistant in the past. And I am sure it got me nowhere.

So I can admit that I feel and face fear in my own practice.  But I can also commit to remaining open and avoiding resistance in the future.



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