I start every school year talking about our emotional road blocks we have as readers and writers and the truth is that reading and writing connects us all in a way that feels vulnerable. I say, “It is basically the equivalent of putting out guts out there and letting everyone look.” In my experience, teenagers struggle with that. Heck in my experience, adults do as well. My sixth year of teaching and it never gets easier.
But can I tell you the value of allowing your vulnerability to show to them? It seems a little less scary when they see an adult that is asking them do it doing it. I did that yesterday. I didn’t even expect it. I teach dual credit speech. I love it, but I do have those moments where I wonder if I can teach them. I speak amazing to teens. To my peers, to my students parents and to people I don’t know….the task is never easy. But I do every single speech my students have to do to show them. Sometimes it feels robotic and too easy. They compare their ability with mine. I try and explain my audience is my sweet spot. I do this daily. It is where I do well.
But knock me off that kilter and it isn’t as easy. I had the idea this week to switch it up. I decided to highlight the mistakes that we make as speakers. I decided to add them all into one speech that was extremely emotionally charged. I talked about my guy and his TN. My kids are working on advocating for a cause they really care about. This was something I really care about. Except I had to not take it serious. I had to “mess” it up.
What I didn’t intend on was the emotional side of doing a speech about something like this. I saw pictures, I talked about memories and I felt the urge to cry. When it happened I audibly laughed and I looked out at their faces and their confusion. Eventually they realized what was happening and that I was purposefully showing my vulnerability so we could talk about they can over come their own vulnerabilities. I wanted their criticisms so it felt a little more safe for them.
Everyday I teach how to read, how to write and how to understand. Those are all very valuable lessons and honestly at this point I feel like I could teach them on automatic pilot. It is the human lessons that are the hard ones. They are the ones that keep me on my toes because I have to reach them. I want them to own their voices and their identities so that being vulnerable is a little less scary.
On my walk this AM, I was listening to Brene Brown talking about fear and shame and she said, “Your worst fear has already happened.” The lump climbed into my throat and my tears slowly began to fall. And I thought, “Yes, It has.” And how true is that. No way will I ever feel as vulnerable as I did when I sat in that ICU room with my guy and I take the power away from that fear every single time I talk about it and own it and show it that it doesn’t own me. It was that wife in the ICU room. It was the mom that lost her child in a miscarriage. It was the woman who looked at herself in the mirror and was absolutely disgusted by what she saw. It was the woman who got help with her contamination OCD, and it was the woman who let go of the people that cause her pain purposefully.
All of those moments are great leaps of vulnerability and facing the fear and most of them are no longer fears because they already happened. So purposefully making mistakes in the knowledge that they not only witnessed but weren’t afraid to call me on them hopefully gave them a little ounce of encouragement to be vulnerable because there is great power in those moments.