Teachers are tired, they’re stressed, and they’re frustrated. Much has changed since I last taught over ten years ago. But nothing has changed more than the amount of violence and aggression that teachers encounter daily. Hardly a day passes without news of some teacher somewhere being attacked by a child. It has become, in my opinion, a national crisis. Folks are leaving the profession in record numbers. And finding someone qualified to take their place has become almost impossible.
Reading the stories, hearing their cries and knowing the physical and emotional pain that teachers experience is troubling to say the least. There is much to say and much to write about this topic. Citing case after case of teachers’ stories does help to shed light on the issue of violence in our schools. But I want to take a different angle. While I don’t have any answers at the moment for decreasing the violence and abuse teachers endure, I do think I can help.
I have spent the past four years delving into and learning about the power of vulnerability. Over 100 amazing individuals have trusted me with their stories of pain and regret and for that I am forever grateful. Along the way I have learned much. More than anything, I have learned how powerful and transformative vulnerability can be.
I wasn’t always as vulnerable as I am today. It took some risk taking. It took listening. And it took a serendipitous event to convince me that being embracing vulnerability is a way to ease the pain that I often felt. Don’t get me wrong. Vulnerability is not a cure-all, but it has changed my life for the better in more ways than I can count.
And yet, in today’s tumultuous environment, I understand why many teachers are hesitant if not skeptical of displaying vulnerability. You see, many educators spend their days in fight or flight mode—literally. They must keep their guard up at all times or else risk being attacked physically and/or emotionally.
If this is the case, which I am certain it is for many educators around the country, how-why would they possibly think it is safe to be vulnerable? To be vulnerable, one must let down their defenses. But in doing so doesn’t the teacher risk being injured?
Now I am speaking more of the emotional turmoil that many teachers experience on a daily basis. Being vulnerable is hard. Being vulnerable is risky. Being vulnerable is scary. And yet, I think it has the power and the potential to ease some of the pain that teachers are feeling. I think it has the potential to lessen some of the guilt that teachers pile on themselves. And most importantly, I think being vulnerable has the potential to change lives.
It changed mine.
And while, as I mentioned previously, I have not taught for over ten years. I have certainly been through the fire and back. Let me tell you, I can not imagine what my physical and mental state would be today if I had not learned and embraced the power of vulnerability.
Believe me, I get it. Being vulnerable is probably the last thing some of you want to think about right now. You just want to get home and rest. You want to feel better again. You want to enjoy teaching.
While I don’t have an answer for the conditions under which you work, I do have an idea or two about how you can take care of you. And it begins by being vulnerable.
Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my ideas and suggestions on how and where you can begin. I understand I am asking you to take a leap. But trust me, I can see the net and it’s closer than you may think.
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