Vulnerability as Empowerment in the Classroom

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Teaching Resources, United States on 2015-09-13 02:04Z by Steven

Vulnerability as Empowerment in the Classroom

Education Week

Christina Torres, Middle and high school English and Drama Teacher
University Laboratory School, Honolulu, Hawaii

It’s back-to-school time for many students and teachers this week. For many, it means that 20 to 120 new faces enter our classrooms and our lives.

Jessica, a fifth-grade teacher in Chicago, wrote this beautiful piece on the vulnerability of her new students after asking them to share how they saw themselves reflected in literary characters:

I was in awe of the bravery of these kids. To speak this freely in front of their classmates. To tell these things to me, their teacher, who they barely even know at this point. That is bravery.

What they showed me is their capability to make themselves vulnerable. To be willing to share the deepest parts of themselves. To leave behind the worry of how others would react and share these moments and glimpses into their lives with us all.

The piece hits on an aspect of education that is often forgotten: students not only look to us for content, they also can experience either empowerment or oppression based on the culture of our classrooms

We have to face this with our students head on. We must not only acknowledge this truth with students but also attempt to build trust in a space that has failed to validate their identities.

Here’s the thing: we have all been biased, and we have been hurt by biases. As Jay Smooth discusses in his seminal talk, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Discussing Race,” “the race constructs that we live in in America were shaped … for centuries by a need to rationalize and justify indefensible acts.” Because of this, we “will never bat a thousand when it comes to dealing with race issues.” We’re going to mess up, which is difficult when the stakes feel so high…

Read the entire article here.

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