Accepting Vulnerability As An Educator

I had one foot out the door, sunglasses and beach hat in tow (parka, umbrella, and rain boots would be more accurate in my neck of the woods). The relaxation and rejuvenation that spring break would bring rested lightly on my mind. That was right before I found out that the week following spring break, one of my lessons would be observed by an entourage of people, including: four of my fellow teachers, two school administrators, who knows how many people from the district office, and a formative assessment educator. I won’t hesitate to admit that I was (and still am) scared.

My first instinct was to find a way to get out of the whole thing. After all, it isn’t a required observation. Then my thought process shifted to the idea that if I couldn’t get out of the observation, how I might go about getting a different class period to be observed. There are always classes that function more smoothly than others for any given number of reasons, and the particular class that is scheduled to be observed is not—to put it bluntly— my most smoothly running class period of the day. I spent several days contemplating how I might better adjust circumstances to benefit me and shed the best light on my practice before I finally internalized and accepted the importance of vulnerability and transparency as an educator.

I am wracked with anxiety at the thought of having at least ten sets of eyes watch my every move. I feel like my students and I will be specimens in a fishbowl. It’s humbling to have your performance as an educator assessed. But at the same time, all of the professionals who will be observing me have valuable insights, wisdom, and feedback to give. If I am willing to be transparent, humble, and accepting of constructive criticism, I have the potential of improving my practice in ten different ways. And, by the same token, if putting myself out on the line for one class period means that other educators can benefit from what I do well in the classroom, as well as areas that I have yet to improve on, then my observation means that we can grow as a community of educators. This not only strengthens our skills as professionals, it benefits the students that we are responsible for educating. These professionals are there to help me, to support me, and to grow as educators themselves. We are a team with the best interests of students at heart.

Ultimately, I have decided to accept this position of vulnerability with good faith that to be vulnerable is to open myself up to becoming the best educator I can be. Am I afraid that I will trip over my own feet, become tongue tied, or look foolish in front of my colleagues? Yes, I am. The risk, however, is worth the potential outcome.

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6 comments

  1. I honor your bravery in transparent, instead of putting on the dog-and-pony-show which so often comes from high pressure observations. Good luck, though I don’t think you need it based in your blog 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Mary, for your words of encouragement! I completely appreciate your sentiment about the notion of the “dog-and-pony-show” that observations can become. It was pretty stressful having eleven people examine my teaching, but I did the best I could to maintain my natural demeanor and proceed forward with the lesson plans that I would have delivered whether or not there were observers in the room.

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  2. You sound like a very dedicated teacher. Your students are lucky to have you. I hope the observation went well. And I agree with you. Being yourself and being vulnerable are assets to you as a teacher. Keep being real!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words! The observation did go well; it was stressful, obviously, but I tried to be as natural as possible. I felt a lot of support from my colleagues, so that made everything really positive. I would personally love to visit the classrooms of other teachers more often. It can be really helpful to see how certain teaching strategies draw kids in. I think the more we normalize the practice of coming into the classrooms of our colleagues, the more natural and comfortable it will eventually become.

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