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Daring to be Vulnerable

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

This week, like so many others, has brought with it a lot of opportunity for contemplation, self-reflection, and contextual connections. As this COETAIL course unfolds, I am gaining more insights and better understandings of different learning theories, frameworks for successful technology integration and research findings that are helping me make sense of all of the moving parts and how they fit together in the intricate machine we call modern education, but in all honesty, I’m overwhelmed. Each week, I take in all this information and try to find meaningful ways to use it at work, but it often feels like the train is moving too fast and I can’t make sense of it all enough to apply it in my work with teachers and students each day. It could also be that the honeymoon period has worn off and I’m now settled into my new life in China and AISG which is causing me some anxiety. But I guess that fits nicely with our discussion of courage, vulnerability, and growth, so here we go.

Courage & Vulnerability

I work with a lot of different personalities and teams each day and sometimes it can be hard to know which hat to wear at what times. After listening to Brene Brown’s SXSW talk on shame and vulnerability, I reflected on how these have played a role in my life at work recently, and I was surprised by how many examples I came up with. Last week, our Innovation & Technology team sent out an anonymous survey to staff in an effort to gain feedback about their perceptions of PD offered by our department. Along with questions about the support and training that they’ve received with regards to technology integration this year, participants were also asked to provide suggestions for how the Innovation and Technology team could better support them. While the results were mostly positive, there were a couple of comments aimed specifically at me that stung to read. At that moment, I felt extremely vulnerable. I had to remind myself that it’s a courageous act to ask people for anonymous feedback and that even though some of it was uncomfortable to read, I could use it to grow. 

Survey results
Ouch- that one hurt

Another instance of courage and vulnerability came last week when I was asked to speak to Grade 4 students about leveraging social media to find and contact ‘experts’ for an inquiry project (ISTE student standard 7b). The lesson was impromptu and put me in a position to model risk-taking for students, but also made me feel vulnerable because what if nobody in my social media networks replied or would help? I’d feel like a complete fraud and the students and teachers I was trying to model for would see that I am in fact a fraud and they wouldn’t be able to trust me anymore. You can see where this went, right? Anyway, after talking myself down from the ledge, I made it clear that failure is always a possibility, but that it’s worth the risk. This connects back to the readings on deep learning when Fullan notes “This is about helping students to build attitudes and confidence through doing purposeful things that make a difference in the world.” (A Rich Seam, pg. 35) After all, it is my hope that engaging students in using social media in a positive way like this will lead them to using it in this way in the future. And then I shared with them the story of Jia Jiang, a man who underwent ‘rejection therapy’ to face his fears. We ended the lesson with an agreement that they would help find the experts online and I would contact them on their behalf. We are awaiting replies now.

Jia Jiang’s Ted Talk

One final example of courage and vulnerability is on its way later this week as I host my very first TeachMeet event bringing together some 40+ educators in Guangzhou for a community event of socializing and sharing. Now, this may not sound like anything that requires courage or elicits feelings of vulnerability, but it does. I’m worried about people not coming, the presentation or wifi not working, or that it won’t be well-received by the participants, but thankfully, I have a colleague and co-host at my side who has assured me that it’s going to be okay and that she’s there to support me. So… I’ll let you know how that goes.

My first TeachMeet event happens this Thursday- EEK!

Authenticity & Deep Learning

While the examples above are about vulnerability and courage, they are also about authenticity and creating authentic learning experiences that encourage growth and lead to deeper learning. And since I’ve been spending a lot of my time upskilling myself on aspects of the PYP, the connections I’ve made this week are around the idea of ‘action’ and how technology has enabled us to take action like never before, and how exciting that is in our work with students.

“This is the final step of deep learning: using new knowledge that has been created by students in the world beyond school. In this step students fully develop and build their proactive ‘doing’ dispositions.” (Fullan, pg. 35)

So what about you? How are you modeling vulnerability and courage with your students? How does that help deepen the learning experiences for your students? Looking forward to hearing more from my fellow cohort this week!

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