Last Friday's chat on #whatisschool was all about our vulnerabilities as teachers. The minute I read the questions, I thought they would be a great challenge for me as a reflective teacher (this links to a long-ish post with links to many other posts on reflective practice over the years). As the chat progressed I was humbled by the depth of sharing and the honesty of individuals whom I value and respect as colleagues around the globe. That's the power of being involved in weekly Twitter chats such as these - they push your learning and you are able to reflect more deeply because of where the conversations head. You don't always get these opportunities during one-off professional learning sessions. I've blogged about this before here and here and my Masters thesis was on the power of online Communities of Practice and their potential to change teacher professional learning and practice.
Back to this week's chat though - and this was one that really made me reflect on my practice and my vulnerabilities as a teacher. Even the first question was quite tough - we're often not good at identifying our strengths. If I could choose one strength, then it would have to be empathy - I hope that I will always have empathy for the students and the families I come in contact with. Personally, I don't believe you can reach your students unless you have this. I also know that I'm not afraid to fail, to make mistakes and let my students see me doing this. This is so important if we want to encourage our students to develop a growth mindset and be a learner alongside our students. I've often been challenged on how much I collaborate in my planning with students but I have no problem with this. After all, it is THEIR learning. That was part of the discussion for Question 2.
Question 3 was a tough one - as a teacher, what are my vulnerabilities? It was tough, not because I don't have any - I have plenty - it was because there are many to work on. I'm a perfectionist, and I can be very critical of myself and others. I have high expectations for myself and others but sometimes I need to engage brain before mouth, particularly with adults. This is always something I continue to work on. I know that I care too much and have trouble switching off which can lead to this frustration.
Question 5 prompted a really interesting discussion around what happens when a colleague notices our vulnerabilities - what would we want them to do. One of the most powerful experiences of my teaching career happened when I was involved in a very well set-up Critical Friends programme where the feedback was always honest and constructive and delivered through a coaching platform. I would always want to be told when I'm missing the point, or not communicating effectively or not delivering as I should. We expect to be able to do this with our students in order for them to become the best they can be. Shouldn't we also expect this for ourselves as learners too? Sometimes it's not always easy to hear - and I've been in this situation where it has been some of the most difficult feedback to receive because I'm certainly not perfect, but I hope it's helped me to be a better teacher / leader - and person - and that I've been able to reflect honestly on the feedback for my own benefit and for the benefit of those around me.
Sometimes our vulnerabilities need to be faced. Sometimes they can be a strength and sometimes they are something that needs to be faced honestly and worked on. That's what learning and teaching - and growth - is all about.