I have been giving some consideration to a recent post I read by John Spencer (@johntspencer), entitled 7 Thoughts on Bullying. John shares his personal experience being bullied, and as the title suggests, several of his ideas, for educators, about dealing with the issue of bullying. I found his second point in the post to be particularly powerful:
“Be Vulnerable: I never told an adult, because I never knew of any adults who were bullied. The school culture is all about a one-way transparency, where students are supposed to share who they are and teachers hide behind a cloak of professionalism. We need more teachers being open with students about what it was like to be bullied.”
The “vulnerability” that John describes plays a critical role in our ability, as adults, to establish a safe environment in which students are willing to either seek help, or help others in need. Kids who do not see their teacher (or administrator, counselor, etc.) as someone who can “relate” are highly unlikely to go to that person when they are being bullied, or witness others who are the victims of bullying. Sharing our experiences as students, discussing insecurities, and admitting mistakes adds authenticity to our relationships and helps create meaningful connections that serve as a safety net for those in need. We give a great deal of attention to the importance of authenticity and relevance as it relates to learning activities, but this concern should extend to the entire school experience. It is nearly impossible to create this safe, “connected” environment if we remain hidden behind the “cloak of professionalism.”
As we consider the issues of bullying, and school safety, what are concrete ways in which educators can demonstrate vulnerability and add authenticity to their relationships with students?