EXPLO at Wheaton: Chase Williams on Facing Our Inner Apprehensions

October 25, 2017

As a philosophy major, volunteer EMT, award-winning debater, and step dance team member, Chase Williams knows that curiosities are worth pursuing. Besides being an instructor at EXPLO, Chase is commited to creating spaces outside of class where apprehension can exist in a safe and supportive environment — so that fears and anxieties may be faced with daring and courage.

I was a student who was a little shy and needed a little bit of help to really 'get moving.'

Being apprehensive about something is an incredibly tough thing to overcome as a child. Because we have fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh graders here, apprehension exists as part of our every day — it’s natural. What's important though, is reminding students that apprehension is something not only to accept, but to face.

For me, my apprehension was step dance. I loved dancing and exploring rhythm and moving my body any which way I could. When I saw my first step dance competition, all I wanted to do was try it. All the girls I knew signed up to be on a team. But there were no boys — so, evidentally, I didn’t sign up. At first, I would follow the girls to the park. I would sort of hide behind them and follow their dance, working to try and get a move here, learn a step there . . . literally 100 feet away. Then one time, they saw me —  practicing behind a tree, no less — and they all just said, 'Chase you have to do this! You are just as much a part of this!' And that’s when I sort of faced my apprehensions and said 'Alright, I’m in.'

What's important though, is reminding students that apprehension is something not only to accept, but to face.

Moving past apprehension is often learning how to accept — even before you try something —that you might not be the best at it. It is especially important when it comes to collaborative play. It helps when you have a team that’s going to say 'Give it your all. That is enough'.  And that's exactly what we do at EXPLO.

At a large summer camp, you get this idea that camp just isn't meant for kids who are a little shier, a little quieter, maybe a little more hesitant. Here at EXPLO, it’s a little different.

For example, during floor time, what we do is we have a 5-minute period of silence for students to write in their notebooks. I say to my students, 'Give me five lines. Five things that happened today.' That part of floor time is a period of silence that students can claim all to themselves. And it’s something for our introverted students, in particular, to look forward to. Let’s face it: lunch can be really loud. We’re all excited, energy is high, and you can’t have the conversations that you want. At floor time, we offer this moment set aside for students to reflect — which is so rare as a sixth grader, but so important — on the things they might be apprehensive about.

When we give students designated spaces where they won’t be quieted or silenced, they open up about their classes, friends, and home life. It's a time where they are learning to trust that adults aren’t going to shut them out when they try to speak up — particularly for those students who haven't yet practiced how to use their voice.

It’s helpful for students to recognize what they are enjoying or might not be enjoying. What emotions they might be suppressing about something that happened in class or out on the quad. At floor time, there is the time and space to be both introverted and reflective. Designated time to talk and be listened to.  When we give students designated spaces where they won’t be quieted or silenced, they open up about their classes, friends, and home life. It's a time where they are learning to trust that adults aren’t going to shut them out when they try to speak up — particularly for those students who haven't yet practiced how to use their voice. This short five-minute reflection is a time that we can tell every single student, 'If you have an idea, share it', and for our students to truly trust that they can.

Other than floor time, there are so many moments for students to practice fighting against their apprehensions. I actually just taught a step dancing activity yesterday and a lot of kids who have never done step dance before came and learned from me. At first, some of the students were upset that they weren’t catching on that quickly but it was easy to dissipate the frustration by reminding them about effort being the truest indicator of success — which is something I firmly believe at this age group. I also got a few boys to come, too, which was awesome to see.

By Stephanie LaMont

Tag: EXPLO at Wheaton

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