there’s a certain humility that comes with learning something new.  in fact, the only way in which we truly can learn is through this humility; it’s through the ability to admit that there’s something out there that we, in fact, do not already know.  it’s the ability to admit our imperfection.

it’s the ability to be vulnerable.

and perhaps that’s why i believe that, while important, student interest is not necessarily the underpinning of academic growth.  instead i believe that the ability to take a risk, the willingness to make a mistake, and the humility required to accept defeat are the underpinnings of success — and not just in the classroom — in anything.

every so often, i rewatch brene brown’s talk on vulnerability.  her messages have become a staple in my cognition, even if they haven’t become a routine quite yet in my heart.  it’s hard to admit our imperfections, and it’s even more difficult to have the courage to let yourself be seen entirely.  i know it’s hard for me every single day.  it’s hard for me to fall into uncertainty, and it’s difficult for me to invest in the unknown.

and i’d imagine my students feel the same way.

but because i know this to be so difficult for me, i believe it’s come into the forefront of my teaching — not necessarily that i am constantly explicitly teaching the concept of vulnerability, but that within a lesson, i give my students chances to be vulnerable.  i want them to know it’s okay to take risks, and that being wrong — that being imperfect — actually gives us the opportunity to learn.  it gives us something to build upon; it gives us a start.

in fact, if not for this start, our students would hardly learn anything.  without the student’s ability to be vulnerable — without the student’s willingness to let their imperfections be seen — we would have no assessments, we’d have no data, and we’d have no information upon which to build lessons that help students learn.  we’d be powerless.

we’d be unable to teach.

but therein lies quite an ironic conundrum.  too often, we believe that teaching starts with us — that the ability for students to learn lies within the provocations we place in front of them.  but really, those things we place in front of students are merely a set of symbols and images — combinations of spoken words paired with visuals that are intended to catch on to something.  they’re intended to register and connect with a student’s background knowledge.  they’re meant to be manipulated, broken apart, and fixed to create something new.

but this recreation and manipulation is not something that the teacher can control.
it’s not something that we can predict entirely.

and if you think about it in this context, in the sense that the student must own the task so intentionally, it would seem that nobody can really be taught, for the word “taught” or “teach” implies a unidirectional flow of information from the teacher to the learner.  in fact, the word “teacher” itself implies that there must be someone who is “being taught.”

on the other hand, the word “learner” implies nothing more than experience, information, or knowledge being manipulated, reformed, and assimilated into an already established context.  therefore, it’s easy to see that learning requires choice, intention, and a will, and it lies within the ability to be vulnerable, the ability to be humble, and the ability to authentic.

by viewing learning and our lives in this way, success and happiness transform from dreams to realities, from products to processes, and from seemingly unattainable ideals to startling realities that aren’t so far off in the distant future.

instead, they stand right before our feet.

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