How effective is the fear of a teacher? What do we learn from being scared
Fear can be a powerful tool for learning. Fear can, however, have negative long-term consequences, both for children and adults. It can also make it difficult to learn meaningfully.
What do we learn from being scared? Here is what research has revealed.
How fear affects children’s learning
Fear is a protective mechanism against present and future danger.
Children who are afraid of new experiences learn to avoid them, rather than explore, engage, and approach the unknown with curiosity.
Fear can change the way the brain responds to the world. Fear activates the stress response and alerts our brain. We are hyper-prepared to react quickly and decisively when faced with incoming threats.
You may do this if you encounter an aggressive stranger. Such high levels of reaction are not productive when we are in a learning environment like school, where we need to be open to experience and find innovative solutions.
The brain areas that are activated by fear differ from those used when thinking clearly. Toddlers, as well as children of school age, are taught to avoid new situations if they see their parents express or display signs of fear.
Consider, for example, how a child may learn to fear certain animals by watching their parents’ reactions. For instance, constant warnings such as “Be careful!” may make a child more anxious and less likely to take risks when using play equipment or climbing trees.
The way adults behave can also influence the level of confidence and safety that children feel when exploring the world.
The results of studies that have investigated the parenting behaviors of parents consistently show that harsh parenting (involving physical or verbal aggression) leads to lower outcomes for children, including academic underachievement and higher levels of anxiety and aggression.
The opposite of this is true when parents, who provide structure and boundaries but are warm, encourage autonomy and do so while maintaining boundaries and providing reasons.
Teachers play an important role in developing fear responses. Students are more likely to be motivated and function well in classrooms if teachers are “autonomy-supportive.”
This is for teachers:
Have an open and curious attitude toward students’ interests
Offer options and seek out their perspectives
Invite their thoughts and
Accept a wide range of emotions, from frustration, anger, and unwillingness to joy, playfulness, and curiosity.
Fear and learning in adults
Many adults who suffer from anxiety have experienced environments in childhood where they felt constantly threatened.
They may avoid taking on new challenges, consider multiple perspectives, or respond to questions. Employers usually value all of these skills.
Fear-inducing work environments can be stressful and counterproductive.
According to research, employees who perceive their workplace as unsafe are more likely than others to experience stress, anxiety, and burnout. Stressful situations may also affect our ability to adapt what we already know to new situations.
Researchers argue, on the other hand, that a relationship of trust between managers and employees can influence workers’ willingness to take on uncertain tasks.
Positive relationships in the workplace can also encourage creativity, making work more enjoyable.
Fear-inducing work environments can be counterproductive. Shutterstock
What do we learn from being scared?
Fear is a powerful motivator. What do we learn from fear?
We learn that in response to hostility and threats, we should avoid challenging the external rules and instead ask how they can be improved. We restrict our thinking to safe things and protect our feelings.
Does this kind of learning allow us to grow and improve?
Children and adults must work together to solve difficult problems creatively.
Accepting that we sometimes make mistakes and fail is a way to deal with uncertainty.
This requires safe, nurturing environments. Not a home, school, or workplace ruled by terror.