With a title like this, it's hard to just look away. Just like the fact there is something gruesome in staring at a road accident - what the Americans call rubber-necking - stretching your neck forward just to catch a glimpse of a dead body or a pool of blood so you may recount the sordid tale to whomever you meet next. Anyway, I digress.
So why was my title worth a second look? Simply because it had an element of 'surprise' or the unexpected woven into it. We don't normally associate fear with positive emotions, so how can fear possibly be fantastic? Well, as the saying goes: Mind Over Matter. What the mind perceives to be true, the heart believes. Therefore, if we can reprogramme our mindset, and make it accept that fear is a good thing, fear challenges our boundaries and fear makes us excel, then indeed, the statement might hold water.
The way I see it, both students in general and the teachers in my profession have one thing in common: Fear of Change.
Teachers fear the tide of change will wash over them and make them lose their footing. The internet, digital technology, student-centred learning, mobile phones as something more than a communication gadget, overhead projectors, all of these things point the way forward, they are the inevitable learning tools that our new generation are empowered with, gadgets which are like the compass leading the way northwards.
Yet almost all the seminars and teacher gatherings I go to seem to tell me something about the average Malaysian teacher. And their message is clear: Teachers fear the new education revolution because they are ill equipped to face the challenges of IT in the classroom. I have given talks and tried to show how easy it is to use a simple digital camera to take pictures, record video clips of students doing work in class, uploading to YouTube and FaceBook... and yet the majority of teachers resist. If only they could feel what I feel, see the euphoria on each student's face as soon as they see they've been published online, that their teacher values their work so much, she'd like to share it with the world. If only today's teachers would stop with the 'I don't know how...' and 'It's too complicated..' and replace them with two simple words: "I'll try." Then the floodgates of knowledge would burst open, and there would be a whole new world to explore and their students would benefit from the wave of new information that would raise the tide of motivation to learn and embrace English.
Ok, maybe that sounded too surreal, but you get my point. The students can only be as good as their teacher. If the teachers don't try to be more creative in their teaching techniques, they will start to fall out of favour with the new age students. Teachers fear change, and this fear paralyses them towards accepting and implementing new technology in classrooms today. So who ultimately loses out? The teacher who doesn't want to try? No. The victims are the students because without such exposure, they grow up in a state of ignorance. They plod through the chalk & talk, sadly and surely, never knowing the difference. In the end, they find English boring, repetitive and unchallenging. And whose fault is it? Definitely not the students.
So what now? Well teachers out there, please hear my plea. Change your ways. Even if it instills the deepest fears in you, and makes you shiver to your very marrow. Take on the bull by both his horns, face him head on. Or take baby steps, learn one new thing at a time and pace yourself. Make fear your friend for fear is truly fantastic. It challenges your boundaries, makes you push your limits, dares you to dive into the deep end, gives you strength to freefall without a safety net if your life depended on it. It's all about your attitude, mind over matter. Adjust your mindset, put into place a paradigm shift and embrace the impossibilities.
So is fear fantastic?
Of course it is.