vulnerability

Here’s To Impulsivity!

Even when we have a million drafts already in progress and we know we should focus our energy on completing what we’ve already started, sometimes what we really need is a new beginning. We need different things at different times in our lives, and the same is true for our writing practice. To box ourselves into one mold or form of writing can be constricting and defeat the purpose of writing in the first place.

I often feel the need to spend several days and sometimes a week or more laboring over a piece of writing. I don’t want to present anything that misrepresents me as a writer, as a person, or that makes me come across as careless. Yet, my life is messy at times, and sometimes my head is a mess as a result. My life circumstances shape the need for me to write impulsively. Other times, my life comes together more cohesively, paving way for a more organized thought process. During these times, I have the luxury of slowing down and drawing a piece of writing out over a longer period of time.

Yet, time after time, I try to box myself into an idea that I have of who I want to be as a person and as a writer. The end result: I lose interest in a piece that has magnificent potential. Or, I feel so intimidated by the magnitude of the expectation that I have set for a piece that I can’t progress forward with it. What does all of my fussing and trying to make it all turn out immaculately polished do for me as a writer? Nothing. Often it makes me lose inspiration for writing altogether. This happens because I’m not paying to attention to where I’m at as a human being. Writing needs and human needs go hand in hand.

When it all comes down to it, what are we trying to accomplish with our writing? For me it’s an honest recording of what life is like, with all of its beauty, pitfalls, mishaps, realizations, and mess-ups. Also, it is to connect with others and to garner some comfort in the fact that others are also going through this crazy experience called Life. Sometimes with the process of trying to accomplish this, comes the need to let go and be okay with sounding disorganized and impulsive. This is part of the process of life and of writing. Why would we only want to honor the most polished perfect versions of either? Of course they look pretty, but do they accurately represent how it really is?

P.S. The horse drawing was illustrated by my daughter. It epitomizes the way that I feel when I’m allowing myself to be impulsive. It was also added to this post on an impulsive whim.

I Aspire To:

Be at peace with my life as it is.
Feel connected to those around me.
Open up to others and not feel shame.
Find the confidence to let my voice be heard.
Reclaim my sense of identity.
Believe in myself.

Why We Shouldn’t Wait For Perfection To Let Our Voices Be Heard

For much of my adult life I have held back from expressing my voice. I thought that once I had refined my thoughts and written what I wanted to say in a precise and organized fashion that my voice would be worthy of sharing. The problem was that I could never get it right. My thoughts refused to come out exactly the way I wanted, so instead of risking vulnerability and criticism, I opted to silence myself, and I put my ideas on hold for a better time when they would come together in a more articulate, concise, and profound way.

I found myself particularly out of my comfort zone this week when I assumed a role that I had never undertaken: sports commentator. It was the much anticipated staff versus eighth grade boys’ basketball game, and I sat shoulder to shoulder on packed bleachers with my seventh grade students. To my left sat one of my students who has a visual impairment severe enough to prevent him from seeing a basketball game from the position of the courtside bleachers. He could experience the excitement in the air as hundreds of amped up middle school students stomped in sync, clapped, and cheered. He could hear the intermingled voices of his peers amidst all the chaos, and he could periodically catch a score update, but his limited eye vision could not capture the play-by-play action on the court.

Realizing that it would be difficult for my student to fully enjoy the game without some commentary, I clumsily and inarticulately began to string together a verbal account of the game as it unfolded before us. I messed up on technical terms many times along the way. I didn’t verbalize every play perfectly. During my hurried description, I missed a few ball fumbles here and a few passes there. I had to recruit one of the boys sitting in front of me to be a second set of eyes and double check my facts. “Who fouled whom?” I leaned over and shouted above the roar of excited students, my hands waving wildly in the air as I struggled to quickly and succinctly convey the back and forth action of the game to my student. I’m certain my loud voice and dramatic gestures must have pegged me as an over-aggressive sports enthusiast to the elementary teachers sitting on the other side of the court with their classes.

I stole a glance at my student from time to time, embarrassed by my inability to express the correct technical terms of the plays taking place on the court. When I saw the smile on his face, I knew that he was not concerned that my ability as a sports commentator was less than ESPN worthy. He was not judging me for misstating what type of foul Mr. M. just committed or for accidentally calling a Hook Shot a Jump Shot. My commentary was enough to paint an image in his mind of an experience that he would not have been able to fully engage in without my shaky, inarticulate words. When the game ended, we parted ways to our separate third period classes, but not before he expressed one of the sincerest thanks yous I have ever received from a seventh grade student.

My experience as a sports commentator reminded me that we can’t always wait for a time when point a and point b line up perfectly to let our voices be heard. Sometimes others need to hear our voices, even when we have not rehearsed what to say and our words come out in a jumbled mess. A scratchy, hoarse throat followed me throughout the rest of the day, reminding me of the power of voice, of language, and of words. Not necessarily the kind of words that are perfectly polished and refined, but words that grasp, claw, and struggle to convey ideas for the authentic purpose of helping another see, feel, and experience a moment.

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.