Courage (n.)

Derived from Old French meaning ‘heart’, by the late 14th-century courage had already acquired the meaning of the ‘quality of mind which enables one to meet danger and trouble without fear’ (etymonline). Cambridge defines courage as ‘the ability to control your fear in a dangerous or difficult situation’ (Cambridge; emphasis mine). I added the emphasis because I think this is the key element that defines the meaning of courage as I understand it and contrasts with the earlier sense of the word. I think if there isn’t fear, there is no need for courage.

I see courage in my classroom and my workplace all the time:

  • I see courage in the trans student who decided to come out to me and their classmates
  • I see courage in the adult student, new to his group of learners, who apologised for missing the previous class because he had gone to surprise his boyfriend
  • I see courage in each young learner who puts together a sentence in English and makes mistakes…and then tries again
  • I see courage in the young students who tell me how much they love learning English, despite how uncool it might be to share that view with their peers
  • I see courage in teachers who leave their home countries, families, friends and lives to try living and working in a different culture and learning the local language as they go
  • I see courage in teachers who come to me and ask for help and advice

Perhaps we’re lucky to be working in education and, as a result, we witness the inspiration of courage every day. In return we encourage, or ‘give heart’, to our students and colleagues (etymonline).

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