“We must teach a child to be calm and how to enjoy it” ~Dr. Stuart Shanker
I had to begin with Brene Brown’s Ted Talk “The Power of Vulnerability” in rewriting the restorative practices training (from an American model- that is tool based and grounded in restorative justice -to a Canadian model with links to Ontario Policy and grounded in research in connection, well-being, and self-regulation). I had to begin here because as Louis Cozolino champions in The Social Neuroscience of Education:
While teachers may focus on what they are teaching, evolutionary history and current neuroscience suggest that it is who they are and the emotional environment in the classroom they are able to create that are the fundamental regulators of neuroplasticity. Secure relationships not only trigger brain growth, but also serve emotional regulation that enhances learning (Cozolino, 2013, 17).
Education demands connection, but connection demands vulnerability. If this is the case-and I am certain it is-then what does this mean for the field of education?
What this means is that we as teachers must allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We must move away from the very comfortable and safe world of prediction and control and “lean into the discomfort” of being human. Authentically human. We must allow ourselves to make mistakes. We must model what it looks like to come out of mistakes. We must allow ourselves to be seen. We must believe that we are enough even we might not feel as though we are enough. We have to let go of being the almighty knower to work WITH each and every person, with their unique lived experiences and abilities, who comes through our door.
This can be quite contrary to the ideas we have about what it means to be "THE TEACHER". We, as educators, live in a world of prediction and control; at times, a world of high stakes prediction and control. As a result, if a student fails or misbehaves, many of us either blame ourselves or feel blamed by the institution that we can feel commanded or judged by. Or, conversely, some of us, when things "go wrong" blame them-the students, the parents, the institution, etc.
We also tend to compare ourselves to other teachers. Countless times I have heard, with worry or with indignation, “What do you do…Well I do this…What do you do….Well I do this”. I feel so badly for those teachers whose eyes are always darting around the room trying to ascertain what others are doing that they might not be. And, I get so angered by the narcissistic “I” that speaks as though they, alone, are in the know. But, I’ve gleaned some perspective. I see where this comparison might come from and why it comes. I believe it sometimes comes from a constant feeling of being blamed (by others or by ourselves) and a need to defend oneself as such. The indignant "I" come from a feeling of shame. As a result, accountability is rare. Just a constant circle of staring blame. But, this "indignant I" and the pointing of fingers will not allow growth. With no reconciliation, shame will not only remain, but it will also get passed on - to student. I am no longer confused when I meet an angry young man or woman at the age 16 - angry at me, angry at english class, angry at the school, angry at his/her first period teacher. Living in a power structure that points at you, that blames you, that silences you would make me angry too. I did well in school. I was a young lady who raised her hand and who came by the knowledge bestowed on me easily. I was in, but did not know it at the time, a place of powerful privilege. This is the case of a very select few.
What we need is to redefine what it means to be "THE TEACHER" who is the almighty knower to the person who is modelling learning and working with others, which is, sometimes, not easy. For this to happen, we need to “lean into the discomfort”. We need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We need to abandon prediction and control. We need to connect: with ourselves, with each other, and with the students who we must do right by. We need to “accept things for what they are” when things go wrong. We must not take a perceived lack of perfection personally and translate it to shame blame. We must realize and be comfortable with “it is what it is” (Brene Brown, The Power of Vulnerability) so that we become less focused on predicting and managing and more focused on listening, connecting, and working WITH. Living Restoratively. Teaching Vulnerably.