Sunday, March 30, 2014

Slice of Life - Being Vulnerable

Slice of Life is sponsored on Tuesdays by Two Writing Teachers. For the month of March we are posting a slice each day on our blog. Join in!

I’ve just finished Brené Brown’s amazing book, Daring Greatly. I think this will be a book I will need to reread many times before processing it all. Brown writes about the issues we have with vulnerability, but that without vulnerability we cannot experience true joy. And that by being vulnerable we open up the doors to courage, engagement, and connection.

There is so much I am taking away from this book, but this idea of vulnerability caught me first and made me think. To be vulnerable is scary. We only let the people we love see us for who we truly are, right? They are the ones that will love us unconditionally. I think this applies to our relationships at home, with our closest friends, and – to some extent – to our classrooms.

Several years ago I heard Nancie Atwell speak about how well her students knew her. Because of that honesty she shared with them, they trusted her and shared back. Those relationships became closer in the classroom and built the backbone of her classroom community. I left that conference changed as a teacher.

I now share so much with my students – things like:

·      Favorites: candy (M&Ms), drink (Starbucks), hobbies (reading, writing, photography)
·      Family
·      Fears/ Struggles: anxiety, flying, can I write
·      Frustrations – chatty groups J, not putting forth best effort, my lack of ability to write a book
·      Times I screwed up – when I lied in fourth grade to my teacher, when I didn’t stand up for a friend, my lack of effort in school, etc.
·      Dreams for the future

I think you get the idea.

What I’ve noticed is that the more I share of myself with my students, the more they share in return. As a collective group, we become closer. I know when I start getting emails, visits to the classroom before school, messages on Google Docs – all from various students looking for advice – I know I’m on to something here.

A parent emailed the other day and told me her child called me her second mom and said she could talk to me about anything. She simply emailed me to thank me for that. It was the best thing I read that day because I knew I wasn’t imagining the gains we have made this year. It has been amazing.

Some days it is hard to be vulnerable. Sharing my writing, sharing when I’ve messed up, when I’m frustrated  - those things drain you. But, and this is big, I think my students know that. They know I trust them enough to ask for help. They know that I’m honest with them when I come in, say I’m having a really bad morning, and ask for someone to make me laugh – that I truly need them. At ten years old, it’s nice to be needed.

So yes, being vulnerable is scary. Being open, honest, truthful with ten and eleven year old kids could come with risks. But I’ve found it to be the opposite of scary. My teaching has brought me the greatest joy since I decided all of those years ago to share myself. Sharing with my students causes them to share with me in return. And from that foundation, we grow together. For that reason alone, I’m so excited to go back to school tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what they’ve done over break. I know it will be a great day.