Several weeks ago, my attention was drawn to Chapter 5 of Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth, by Aaron Hogan. This section, aptly titled “Value Vulnerability” made me uncomfortable right from the first truth:
“Vulnerability is prerequisite for all innovation, creativity, and change.”
Ugh! Just the thought of sharing vulnerabilities makes many people squirm, myself included. I’ve spent much of my career holding firm to the teacher myths that we need to know all, do all, be all. It’s quite a challenge to allow that shell of perfectionism crack and shatter to the ground; it’s even harder to share about it with others.
What I’ve learned from Aaron’s writing (as well as posts from other educators in my PLN) is that I’m not alone. We’ve all had amazing days as well as those moments when we questioned why we got into this profession in the first place. What helps us make it through the rough spots is realizing that we are not alone: vulnerability makes us real.
Today I was chatting with another teacher when her voice lowered to a near whisper. “I did something horrible,” she confessed. Her students had spent quite a bit of time working on a special piece of artwork and she wanted to preserve the delicate designs. With best intentions, she took the papers to the laminating machine, but as the oil pastel creations were pressed between the layers of plastic, the heat from the machine melted the colors and smeared them across the designs.
All the students’ masterpieces were ruined.
As I listened to her story, my heart ached for the angst she experienced in that moment. I could feel my own skin bristling at the loss, the horror of having to explain everything to her students who had worked so hard to create such a special project.
She was mortified, but didn’t allow her embarrassment to stop her from being vulnerable with her students. After they arrived this morning, she gathered them near, explained what happened, and apologized. She readjusted her schedule to provide time to talk about the mishap and offered students the opportunity to use class time to recreate their colorful drawings.
Sometimes the greatest lessons we teach begin with the greatest lessons we learn.
Her students responded with empathy. They consoled her. They offered forgiveness.
By sharing her vulnerability with her students, she actually strengthened her classroom culture as they openly discussed her feelings of panic, shock, dismay. She showed them that even teachers make mistakes, thus shattering the perfect teacher’s myth in the most humbling of ways.
I was a little surprised she opened up to me in this way, sharing such a heartbreaking faux pas. But as she described her students’ reactions to the news, I realized the importance of this shared moment.
We rise together.
Aaron Hogan’s words reminds us:
“Being vulnerable with your colleagues is being willing to step into the struggle and walk with them toward a better place.”
Today I am grateful for the reminder that I don’t have to be perfect. We all make mistakes. We all have those horrendous moments that make us want to run and hide. But there is a hidden beauty in revealing our inadequacies to others.
It helps strengthen our resilience so we can then strengthen others along the way.
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