As teachers, some of our primary goals are to empower our students to find their voice, engage in community, and connect with God. Connection is undoubtedly a powerful tool. For students to be willing to be vulnerable and take risks in their learning, they need to feel connected to their instructor, classmates, and God.
In a world where teachers are expected to put on their best faces—light rings, curated backgrounds, carefully prepared slide shows—I would argue that we are fighting against creating spaces for vulnerability and risk-taking for students.
I came across a piece of wisdom recently that caused me to pause and evaluate: Speak from the scar, not the wound. Speaking from a scar and a place of healing allows time for wisdom to develop. A wound is an active, in the moment, experience.
I would argue, however, that sharing from a scar is yet another filter we use to avoid vulnerability. Teaching using the stories of our scars is connective, but again, we use the privilege of hindsight and clarity to limit our vulnerability as we shape the narrative, just like a light ring. In the classroom, vulnerability is the here and now. The wounds we are living through in the moment.
The wound is where the power of connection lies. The traumas of my teenage years have become scars that can be shared. However, my current experiences are the touch point where I can share most powerfully with my students. Who of us are without wounds? Every teacher has it within them to share the authentic challenges of being in this world.
What a wonderful thing.
In the Encounter Bible classroom, we talk real-life every time we meet. “Where is your heart at? Are you living with a heart for God? What is holding you back from being ready to connect with God?” These are immensely personal questions. If anything but silence is expected in response, I need to be willing and able to reveal my real and current answers as the teacher. The topics I’m currently wrestling with, the questions I’m pondering, and the joy I’ve found.
As teachers, if we are only teaching and sharing nicely-healed experiences, are we missing out on an opportunity to share our healing process? Prayerfully, responsibly, with great thought and guidance from a trusted colleague, you will find that adding space for vulnerability will enrich your classroom environment and community.
“Are we willing to create courageous spaces so we can be fully seen?” (Brown, 2019).
Encounter class is my arena; it’s where I come to connect with my students in real ways. Our students do not have the luxury of filters or hindsight. How can students be expected to go to class, fresh out of their warm bed, fresh-faced, no make-up or lighting rings and pour out their hearts, if I’m not willing to risk it as well?
Brown, B. (2019). Braving the wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone. Random House.