There is hope for education, and for educators and administrators willing to take the vulnerability leap, change is on its way.
I want to take everyone into meetings that I’ve been a part of for the last four weeks. Instead of incessantly talking about testing, results, data and power standards, I’ve heard teachers talk about wanting to be braver with lesson plans because it’s easy to get into a rut after teaching for so long. I’ve heard men comment on how showing vulnerability isn’t welcomed or comfortable but clearly necessary. I’ve heard discussions of how being a female leader is like tightrope walk because what’s acceptable and unacceptable behavior is a list longer than we care to believe. I’ve heard teachers talk about how being authentic in front of kids is endlessly easier than doing the same in front of coworkers because there is an unwelcomed feeling of judgment. I’ve heard administrators talk of wanting to show up more for their teachers and even adding “Being vulnerable is brave” on staff e-mails. These are the new meetings happening in my corporation, and it feels like a spark that will light the fire of revolution.
Over 100 teachers and administrators in my school district have jumped on a culture changing professional development opportunity created by researcher, professor, and NYTimes best selling author Dr. Brené Brown. Brown’s research delves into the topics of shame, vulnerability, courage, and empathy, and she has taken her acclaimed work online through her companies COURAGEworks and Brave Leaders Inc. The course, Daring Schools: Four Pillars of Courage, is an educational opportunity for school staffs to look at what Dr. Brown calls the missing piece of education. She said we all talk about curriculum, pedagogy, and evaluations, but we’ve overlooked the important piece of who we are, and that’s ultimately what determines the success inside of a school. She leads schools through lessons that clear the way for the conversations that are desperately needed to improve education and increase engagement.
In four weeks, there is a noticeable excitement working its way through our schools. In a job that can become siloed because of the concentration on what’s happening inside of a teacher’s own classrooms or an administrator's office, the concern has moved outward. The educators taking the Daring Schools course are reaching for connection with each other and with students instead of reaching for the knob to close the door. We are lining up to enter the support section for each other instead of filling the room with the toxic bug of comparison and judgment.
While I knew this would be important for our corporation, I didn’t realize how desperate we were for this change. Facebook is being used to spread Dr. Brown quotes and videos. Marble jars of trust are deliberately being filled, and we’re being brave by showing up every day and letting ourselves be seen. We’re checking our stories to sift through what’s true and made up, and we are fighting to choose courage over comfort. It’s not always pretty, but we’re trying. Even when the work is hard, we aren’t backing away from or the conversations that are necessary to make it all work.
I love my job, but I’ve never been as excited to come to work every day as I am now. There is something powerful about being in the arena with people who have your back and are fighting for the same cause: making our schools the best place possible our kids. I can look in the eyes of any one of the people in the course with me and see that same desire to be courageous and vulnerable, and it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever witnessed.
Every ounce of me believes this is the direction schools need to go. My impact as an educator and coworker has only grown because of it, and when teachers are living this and modeling it, it’s only a matter of time before our students will catch on. We will fight for authentic over perfect, courage over comfort, connected over isolated, empathy over shame and vulnerability over armor. I can’t help but believe this is the key to healing a broken nation.