see me / see you

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After watching this TED talk by the “8-Foot Bride” (aka musician/performance artist Amanda Palmer), we’re writing to the questions at the bottom of this post today:

This Afternoon Pages entry is the first in a 3-part series on a vulnerability that we’re writing to in relation to being a Teacher as Writer, who’s also a CO301D student, who’s also completing a UGP.

I’m nervous that I’ve made myself vulnerable to some extent by even considering the topic of vulnerability with my students. In the past, my high school students and every so often my university students as well have some observation that we should “just stick to the facts, ma’am” instead of making personal connections to class content or to one another. I sound like I’m complaining, but I’m really not. I have just always found the question peculiar because I thought that was partly what this learning and literacy thing was all about–personal engagement and interaction, right? It’s perfectly fine that some students don’t share this view, but every time it surfaces, I think about the false divide that has been created by the schooling system as we currently know it (yikes–passive voice abstracting systems, even though WE are the system) that separates the “student” and the “teacher from one another and also from the reality that we are human beings. There is an intersection here. 

But you know what? I’ve decided to show up, as Brene Brown puts it in Daring Greatly, not just as the “professor,” but as a human being in my classes. Because, guess what? I want my identity to animate my teaching. This is my life energy. This is my students’ life energy. Shouldn’t it count for something?

This intention is also based on the work I’m doing with teachers in the CSU Writing Project around our working theory of action on “sustainable teaching.” From experience, I know that it takes so much dang energy to pretend to be someone you aren’t in the classroom, for students and teachers alike.

This doesn’t mean that I’m never afraid on any given day. I’ve just learned (and will always be learning) that if I give into that fear of letting my students see me–if my students give in, too–we will have missed an opportunity to tap into the beautiful, dangerous experience of being writers, teachers, and learners with one another.

And wouldn’t that be a waste?

What does it mean to really see someone? What does seeing someone require? What does it mean to be seen? What does being seen require? What does any of this have to do with being a learner, a teacher, a writer, and a human being inside and outside of school?

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