Is it OK to Cry?
“Most people believe vulnerability is weakness. But really, vulnerability is courage. We must ask ourselves… are we willing to show up and be seen?” -Brene Brown
It finally happened this semester. I quietly closed the door to my office. I held my head in my hands. And I cried.
It started innocently. I was marking assignments for one of my classes. One of my students recently lost a grandparent, so I was being watchful to see how this student was doing. It seemed that the student was doing fine, receiving credit for all but the last question. However, at the bottom of the page was a message for me scrawled out in pencil… A message stating that times have been exceedingly difficult. A message reflecting that time was moving too fast. A message of apology. And a message of vulnerability.
Instinctively, I began writing. I shared my story of how I lost my grandmothers last year and how challenging it was for me and my family. I shared that I understood. I shared that I was willing to sit in the uncomfortable space of sometimes life sucks and there is nothing we can do about it. I shared my own vulnerability. In that moment of silent connection, that’s when the built-up sadness, stress, frustration, and anxiety over the past year came.
Empathy – feeling with people – is something that I feel is often missing from the current back-and-forth debate in education. How good are we at perspective-taking? When I first entered the educational sphere, I argued with a firm passion. I believed in what I said, and I still do to a certain extent, but what did I have to show for it? I am not convinced that the people who really mattered – our nation’s teachers – ever listened.
Over the past year I have been trying more diligently to hear all sides of the educational debate – I have tried my hand at perspective-taking. I try to fit the shoes. What have I found? I have found hard-working and dedicated educators looking for strategies to help their students learn in a world that is continually buzzing. I have found passionate individuals who believe that there are gaps that need to be filled and are having a go at improving aspects of education and teacher-training. I have found students who respect you and value your opinions when you aren’t afraid to listen.
I have found connection.
I have found disconnection.
I have found individuals who silence communication with verbal attack. I have found friends who, at my most vulnerable moments, erected unscalable walls. I have found vested interests with the primary goal of money-making and dehumanizing teachers. I have found groupthink and perpetuation of the other.
Take a moment to think about someone whom you really dislike. Have you verbally attacked them? Do you speak words behind their back? Next, think of someone whom you cherish. How often do you verbally attack them? How often do you speak words behind their back? Probably less when compared to the individual you dislike, right? In general, the less connection we have to someone, the easier it is for us to attack that individual. Be mindful of this the next time you open dialogue with someone.
Let’s return back to the beginning of the post. Is it OK to cry? Yes. Be proud of your vulnerability and use it to make genuine connection. Don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, I am overwhelmed and need help with this.” Because it is these moments, when reciprocated, that lead us to something that is most valuable: our humanity.
If you do give cantelope another shot, make sure you get a ripe one that isn’t overripe. Most of the cantelope that is shipped is underripe and never achieves a decent flavor.
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Lovely post; however, I wouldn’t be sharing personal anecdotes with children, no matter how big a potential connection is.
I agree that there is a fine line here. I am lucky that I teach in post-secondary and have more flexibility in sharing stories. This said, it is surprising how perceptive younger students are – they can tell when you are having an off-day. I sometimes wonder if, by not mentioning anything (or brushing it off when asked about it), we are sending the message ‘when you’re having a bad day you aren’t allowed to tell anyone’.
Good point and I personally believe that children shouldn’t go through school thinking that the adults in charge will only ever be sweetness and light. In fact, I make a point of telling my children if I’m feeling tired or ill to pre-empt any snappiness that my ensue!
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P.S. I am sorry for your recent losses. 😦
Thank you. I think the hardest part about being an academic, or a student, is that you don’t get enough time to process a loss like this. Unfortunately, the curriculum coverage doesn’t stop. My department was awesome and covered my classes for a few days – but realistically I definitely needed more time with family (this was no fault of the department – moreso a reflection on society in general).
This is beautiful, Bryan! I found it very moving, and I’ll certainly keep it mind in the future and think twice about engaging in angry and disparaging commentary.