Here's a question: How comfortable are you with the term "vulnerability"? Does this word make you cringe? Does it excite you? I am beginning to realize that I absolutely despise feeling vulnerable. I want to know the most, to be the best, to have it all together. I have worked hard to make sure that I am never in a situation where I feel that I don't have some sense of control. I tell my husband how to drive. I bag my own groceries at the grocery store, because I know how I want them arranged. Everything in my house (and in my classroom) has a spot. I write lists of things to get done. I enjoy crossing items off those lists. I don't like people telling me what to do, or how to do it. I am in control.
And I wonder where this has all come from....
When I was a kid, I was incredibly disorganized and scatterbrained. I didn't do well in school. I didn't feel that I had any control over my own circumstances. I often stayed quiet in order to avoid seeming like an idiot. I never felt like I had everything together. I always looked forward to the day when I could do things my way. I looked forward to being an adult. As an adult, I will tell you that I enjoy my day to day life infinitely more than I enjoyed life as an adolescent (which is probably the case for 99.9% of adults). I am finally able to do things my way, to feel like I have things together.
Upon entry into the teacher education program at RIC, I told myself that I needed to make sure to do whatever was necessary so that I'd "have it together," because, after all...teachers have it all together, right? When it comes to teaching, my desire to eliminate any sense of vulnerability has been a driving force.I stay up late trying to find ways to make lessons more interesting, and making sure that I know as much about the following day's topic of study as possible. Additionally, I stay up late attempting to micromanage each moment of class time for the following day. I always have a plan for those five minutes of down time. Again, I am in control.
I will say that my desire to avoid vulnerability has been beneficial in some ways. It feels good to have a well run, orderly classroom. It feels good to know that students respect me. I've had a number of old students from last school year stopping by my classroom to say hello. We say hello in the hallways. I have not made myself so robotic that I am completely impersonal. However, I feel that I do run the risk of becoming more impersonal with students as the years continue. I think I'm at a point where I need to take a step back and be OK with some vulnerability in teaching and in life in general.
The reason I chose to write about this topic this week is because I feel that Ayers' overall message is about becoming vulnerable. On pg. 115 he says "...if we already know everything, we are terrible students and bad teachers." My goal should not be to make sure I know everything, I need to be reminded of this again and again. My goal should be to reach students, to connect with them, to be on their level, to be vulnerable with them.
I once heard an older teacher say "the day that I say I know everything is the day I should retire." This is a good reminder, a good mantra as the school year begins. The one question I'm left with is how I go about doing this? How can I become more vulnerable?