Saturday, 21 January 2017

Hoomanising hoomans

I was talking to a friend over banana leaf rice (getting in shape for Christmas) about how our ages were getting closer to the third decade, and how I felt like an underachieving piece of ..Plasticine (because plasticine has potential). We went home, and I thought about the year, and what it had taught me.

Lesson 1
Breaking down in public.

I've broken down in the classroom more times last year than when I first arrived at school. Each experience  unique, whether it was a quiver in my voice, or tears welling up or yelling at them through wretched ragged sobs, I've categorised them all as breakdowns; big or small.

The question is 'Is this an unmistakable sign of weakness?', a teaching faux pas? Are we forbidden to do so? Am I the only exception to the rule, "It's okay to cry sometimes"?

While showing emotion is so often negatively translated as being delicate, frail, powerless and feeble,   I believe it should be embraced as being fearlessly, courageously vulnerable. I believe being vulnerable is exposing yourself  to criticism or judgement but with the aim to achieve a deeper connection and understanding.

Having said that, I must stress, that  did not do it with an ulterior purpose. My voice may have quivered just because, at that point, I couldn't expertly handle the situation and I believe it is perfectly alright, that in those few seconds, they got a glimpse of the feeling and emotional person I am underneath all the Verbs, Nouns and adjectives I preach every day. Soon one's breaking point will cease to be a breaking point anymore. One will learn to reprove students in a meaningful way, to admonish artfully.

The subject of vulnerability, is often discussed in terms of a relationship, or potential partner but what about looking at it through a different lens. As a relatively new teacher I was always told from the get go, to build an emotional wall and never let students see that you are scared, that you are hurt, that you feel confused or amused because that was giving them a psychological upper hand. But in all seriousness, how then, would they know that we were human and not robots. Instead of a psychological upper hand what if they were merely making connections, understanding and feeling compassion, closeness, brotherhood and belonging. What if seeing their teacher tear up stirred a sense of remorse and compassion? was that such a cringe-worthy effect?

By all means, I'm not saying I bawl on every stressful classroom experience, you too will soon be able to withstand greater challenges, but I refrain from advocating the NO EMOTION rule. I believe it grinds us into unfeeling moulds, that we force onto our students, who in turn learn never to share problems, never to admit defeat, never to show sadness.

I'm still on the road of self discovery, and the road is a long, winding and well worn path.

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