Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Value of Vulnerability

When are you vulnerable?

I was asked this question once, in a marriage counseling session. I didn't know what it meant at the time. It took me awhile to process it. When I realized I had STOPPED being vulnerable with my ex, that's when I vowed to always just be me - vulnerable as heck - with any other new relationships. My second (and last, of course) husband and I are 100% vulnerable with each other, and that has made our love and life so much stronger. Being vulnerable means you have nothing to hide. My heart is on my sleeve, and I trust others. If people take advantage of this trust, I then learn my lesson through reflection, and close my heart back up with those particular people.

When are you vulnerable - at your school?

I'm guessing your answer would be every day. During the school day, you are in front of eyes that look up to you - you feel that you need to make a difference and do your best. You try, no matter how goofy you may feel, then you try again - with your students' best interests at the forefront.

When are you vulnerable - in your profession?

Many teachers have been debating starting a blog. Writing is a vulnerable act. I can see why many teachers are afraid of writing blog posts, much less a book! I've been there - I'm STILL there! Seeing that people I know and respect are reading Shift This is scary - I always say "eek!" when I see a tweet of the book in someone's hands. Writing every blog post is also a vulnerable act for me, as it is for countless others.

Yet it is important - now more than ever. We need to share our stories - our truths - and learn from each other. We need to share our own stories to combat any negative view of education.

New and veteran teachers are telling me that Shift This has made a difference and invigorated them.

I've got principals asking me for advice as to how to run school meetings or to provide a workshop on the ideas in the book. Teachers are sending me direct messages, confiding in me about the resistance they encounter at work, and how words I've written have helped them feel like they're not alone. These educators are reaching out and showing their vulnerability to me, which I respect.

I've been reminded of a few things since Shift This came out in May...

  • Not everyone you're connected to knows what you know, so SHARE what you know! There are teachers reading the book that have never heard of Genius Hour. There are teachers reading that have never considered not giving extra credit. Some teachers have called it eye-opening, or even career-changing! Even though I've shifted my ideas for awhile now, we still need to share the ideas out there, as there are still educators who are not aware of the possibilities. Consider this: If you share ONE idea that affects ONE educator, you are affecting countless children, as well. How many children will this educator teach, using this one idea you shared? How many other educators will learn about this one idea and thus affect their students, as well?
  • Teachers need to be doing what we ask our students to do. Whether it be the homework you assign, the reading for the night, or the writing in class on a subject, we need to do this alongside our students. Writing is such a vulnerable act - even writing a reflection to something in class! Even writing to give advice or feedback! I'm not even thinking about creative or narrative writing - I'm thinking about writing about Phineas Gage, for goodness sake! Or how about the writing done in science class? Or providing evidence to support or refute a decision made in history? MANY of our students are uncomfortable writing - much less sharing their writing. We need to model it, show them our thinking, then ask them for feedback.
  • We need to ask everyone - students, their parents, peers, administration - for feedback. The more perspectives, the better. The stronger our work will be.
  • We need to REFLECT. Daily. Nah. We only need to ask for feedback and reflect if we want to improve. If we don't want to improve, we should find a new profession.

I've been humbled since Shift This has come out, as well. Teachers are starting blogs as a result of reading it, or even simply being in our book study chats. More teachers have found a larger voice - My words have affected others, and now their words will affect even more educators! On the Weebly, under chapter ten (titled "Resistance" - a favorite chapter among readers), I've added a new page for our new bloggers. The reason it's connected to the resistance chapter is because we will encounter LESS resistance once "crazy" (a.k.a. "innovative") ideas become more commonplace. It's my secret hope that Shift This will not be needed in a few years as more and more teachers are exposed to these ideas. This is going to happen if you share your words - be vulnerable - and let other teachers (and parents, too!) know what you're trying in the classroom.

When are you vulnerable? You could reply in a comment on this post, sure. That's one way of being vulnerable and sharing your thoughts with the world. Or you could write a blog post all your own.

This post was inspired by Aaron Hogan in a #tlap chat about his new book Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth. He and I are on the same wavelength - I finished his book after I wrote this draft. He's got an entire chapter devoted to valuing vulnerability, and another on the importance of blogging and sharing with the world!

1 comment:

  1. Being vulnerable means stepping outside your comfort zone where real challenges & growth happens. Thank you for inspiring me to head in that direction.