Learning To Be Vulnerable – Episode 004

This weeks episode was inspired by two different situations: the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and a podcast from the show Invisibilia  (click on the link below to listen to the podcast)

NPR: Invisibilia – The New Norm

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, thousands of people from across the country and in Houston have been responding to the needs of the people who have been heavily impacted by Harvey. From a furniture store owner who opened his store as a shelter, to a preacher who (for some) hesitated or reluctantly opened his doors to those in need. The idea of vulnerability is a sensitive topic and how we respond to those who are vulnerable can have a massive impact.

Ursa (latin for bear) is a oil rig platform 130 miles south east of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico. It was not only the deepest offshore oil well in the world (at the time of its completion) but its $1.45 billion dollar price tag was something never accomplished before. If Ursa was to be successful, the people who would live and work on the Ursa would need to learn how to confront their fears and become vulnerable. In other words; they had to deal with their feelings.

As one of the Shell leaders would discover, it would be critical to the operation of the platform that the men get in touch with their own feelings. In such a complicated and dangerous work environment, the success of the Ursa and the safety of everyone on board relied heavily on the ability of the men to communicate efficiently and effectively. Communication and awareness are a matter of life and death in a 24/7 work environment such as this. It is because of this need, that the workers would need to not allow their pride, their idea of manliness, their notion of failure or their perception of weakness to interfere with their work. The lives on the platform, and their own lives, depended on their ability to not let fear get in the way. Which lead me to think about our students, who are the most vulnerable people in our classrooms.

Do we allow our children to be vulnerable? Do we support our students in communicating their feelings, their fears, their anxieties? Do we create in our classroom an environment where our students feel safe about expressing themselves and the things that they need?

And if they do, are we responsive to their needs?

Our students face many challenges and many of them find it difficult to express needs and to be vulnerable in the classroom. The fear of becoming ostracized, made fun of, laughed at, or pegged in a particular way can have a permanent and lasting effect and can create a learning environment where learning is curved at best; completely unreachable at worst.

It is no surprise then that an article by the Harvard Business Review found that after 15 years of applying these practices, that the company accident rate declined by 84% while productivity, efficiency, and reliability increased beyond any previous company benchmark.

How much more productive could our students be in the classroom if we created an environment where we can learn to be vulnerable? How much more efficient could the natural organic learning process become if we supported in each of our classrooms an ecosystem where all of the players shared and interacted with each other in a way that allowed each participant to express who they truly are. To be themselves; their true authentic selves.

With 50 million children going through our public education system every year, how much of an impact could our classrooms have on our society if we focused on learning to be vulnerable in a safe environment… and if you, the leader, the gatekeeper, created that safe environment every day and sealed every lesson, every experience… with a smile.

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