Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

—Marianne Williamson

I stumbled upon this quote last night while reading through my favorite blogs, and it resonated with me. There has been much discussion in my own professional circle around the importance of transparency, reflection, and self-assessment. Submitting ourselves to peer review and taking the time to identify what works and what doesn’t in the processes we use and the products we create helps us grow and meet the needs of those we serve in better ways.

Today I’m thinking about something else, though. I’m thinking about all of the teachers I work with who are doing incredible things with students. Teachers like Stacy, who started this project, and Sheri who has immersed herself in learning more about what it takes to motivate reluctant readers and help them comprehend the things they read. I’m thinking of Dawn, who understands the power of nonlinguistic representation better than I might, and a whole slew of teachers at Starpoint Central who have valuable expertise in teaching and training others around the 6+1 Traits of Writing and teaching kids to THINK. All of these people understand that sharing what they do is an important part of doing right by kids.

This is uncomfortable. We fear the criticism that sometimes follows when we dare to focus more on the great things that are going on in our lives rather than on the problems that surround us. Insecurity breeds contempt, and too many of us are hesitant to open our mouths, our classrooms, and our hearts because we are afraid of being deemed a show off or know-it-all. Misery and apathy love company, it’s true. But so does joy, and in my own experience, when we surround ourselves with those who are willing to collaborate in positive ways, so much more is accomplished and the atmospheric shifts are amazing. I’m watching that happen in many different places right now, and I have to admit, it does feel liberating.

We worry too much about how we might be judged if we credit each other for what we do that is working.

We need to get over this. For ourselves. For our students. For the betterment of the field.

And if other people feel threatened by that, then they need to focus a bit more on shining their own light as well.

It’s not about promoting ourselves.

It’s about promoting ideas, building energy, and honoring and appreciating each other.

This is the work of courageous teachers. It’s also the work of effective ones.



  1. Why is it that we are so afraid to shine? What an awesome question! It’s sad that we’re afraid that others will think we’re know-it-alls, but that is so true. Why do adults have to be so miserable anyways? When did we lose our excitement for celebrating the work of others? You are so right when you say that we need to open our classrooms, our minds, and our hearts more. We need to remember the power of sharing and how good it feels. Imagine the sense of a true professional learning community that it would foster. TRUE collaboration, how I would love that!

    Nice Post!

  2. Thanks for this Angela. I needed to hear it. In my school I’ve seen the raised eyebrows when I get up to speak about why I think it is important to change how we approach collaborative project work and extend the reach of our students beyond their immediate classroom. It happened to me recently and it hurt. For this reason, I didn’t speak up at a staff meeting this week when this sort of discussion was raised by another teacher. I felt that they were sick of my voice so I would shut down. When I mentioned this to others (who had noticed my silence – not the norm for me!) they told me I must speak up. They need me to. I have to ignore the raised eyebrows and understand that maybe I am speaking to the silent majority who are listening and taking in some of what I am saying. Thanks for the reminder with your very important words here.

  3. Jenny–
    I think that all of us do battle with this, and it’s something I tend to be much more sensitive about than I probably should be. Someone wise once told me that it’s none of my business what other people have to say about me behind my back, and that helps me keep my head together around this. I do believe that the majority is silent, as you suggest, and that everyone has a responsibility to speak their truth, share what is helping, and engage conversation around important issues that influence how we teach and learn. Thank you for sharing this. It’s very hard to speak up, and I get hurt too, sometimes. It helps to know we’re not alone. I’m so glad to know courageous people like you. : )

    If only it were that easy. I think the first steps are always the hardest, and surrounding yourself with people who support this way of doing business is so important. I watch how people criticize others for speaking up or sharing what they are doing on an almost daily basis, and sometimes, it’s discouraging. But what’s amazing is watching how that kind of negativity doesn’t stop people. Eventually, it’s easier to see it for what it is, to take it far less personally, and to use it as an opportunity to clarify and strengthen our purpose, intent, and resolve…which is awesome!

    And thanks, Andrea! Good to see you! Hope it’s warmer in Fla. than it is here in WNY this week.

  4. Angela,

    It is funny how some of the blog entries you write hit the bullseye with what I am thinking or feeling. Looking back at this week I felt that the shining lights were being covered by others. Some of the bright lights, prefer to shine in hiding. It is up to me and others in my position to find subtle ways of making people feel better about being a shining light, without causing others to feel like they are threatened.

    I think an important part that you alluded to was that many have knowledge and expertise that we can all benefit from. If we could get others to shine a bit brighter, it would make a huge difference.

    Each day we need to promote the good within others, and encourage them to shine.

    Perhaps by leading with this example we could get all of the people to do the same with the children we deal with each day. Imagine the impact we could have if we all try to find the shining light in each other; administration, teachers and students?

    I once heard a quote that is something like “in order to fix what is wrong, you need to see what is right”.

Write A Comment