Friday, February 27, 2015

Courage: Teaching without a Net

A month ago, I was lucky enough to participate in a Talking Circle put on some excellent teachers from our Aboriginal Education Department.  I have been involved in regular talking circles before, but this one felt different.  Because of the First Nations focus, this particular circle seem to have more of a spiritual impact on me.  It was very moving, so moving for some of the participants that they were brought to tears.  Kirk, one of the leaders, said that it was okay to cry, that it happens all the time in the Talking Circles, and that it takes courage to cry.

I definitely agree that it takes courage to cry.  Maybe it is why I go to great lengths NOT to cry in public.  Just under the surface, I am a big marshmallow, and I am afraid that once I start crying, I will not be able to stop.  I lack that courage to cry.  In fact, in that particular talking circle, when it was my turn to speak, to honour someone who influenced me, I said something glib.  It got a laugh and got me off the hook from really exposing my vulnerable side. 

And there was so much that was sitting there inside of me.  After that meeting, I was going to meet my mother and my sister at the bank to decide what we were going to do with the rest of my dad's estate.  My father's memory rests heavily inside me, and I knew that if I mentioned anything at all about him, I was just going to lose it.  But I chose not to go there.

I did, however, admire and respect the people who did choose to show their vulnerable side.  I was aware of the trust that has to present for people to take that brave risk.  I don't happen to share that kind of bravery.

Can we create the same kind of environment of safety and trust in our classrooms?  Today, one of the girls, R, in my class was crying.  Another girl, J, came up and told me that R was crying.  I asked her why.  J didn't know.  So I told her to go ask R.  J told me that R wished she was back at her old school.  I told J to ask R why she wished she was back at her old school.  Off went J.  She came back and said R wished she was at her old school because she missed her best friend who was there, and she only got to se her once a year, on her birthday.  I told J to take R for a walk, and make her feel better.  J put her arm around R and they walked up and down the hallway and talked for a bit.   Then they read together in the hall, and decided to be friends.

The learning for me in this situation is that I really don't have any answers, I just have to keep my eyes open for opportunities for students to build trust, and then try to act on them.

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