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Courage can be patient, a silent tenant in your heart that doesn’t stir until it’s needed. It is also energetic, daring, playful, imaginative, creative. No work of art is created without it. No feat of invention or exploration. [Stephanie Dowrick]
You learn to swim by swimming, you learn to courage by “couraging”! [As quoted by Brené Brown in “The Gifts of Imperfection.”]
(I totally love this one! The fact that being courageous is a skill…something you have to practise!)
Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do. This is who I am, these are the things I’ve been through, these are the things that were great, these are the things that sucked, these are the moments I’m most proud of and these are the moments that terrorised me with shame, that I’ve moved through but it’s been super hard, this is all of me, and I love myself and these stories…I’m not going to orphan the stories that don’t fit with what you think I’m supposed to be…because this is all of me.
[Brené Brown; interview with Tami Simon on “Insights at the Edge”.]
But to teach teenagers how to own their story, honour every aspect of themselves at a time of intense development? When their ideas, let alone their opinions, are being grown and examined at a million miles an hour?
How do we do that? By being courageous ourselves.
When we step into that classroom, we embody the courage we would like to teach our students.
It’s is taking time to acknowledge the different characters and personalities of your students so that they become people, and not numbers. So they believe they are not just their most recent grade.
It’s in the “thank you” you give them when they offer a response out of their comfort zone.
It’s your apology when you have forgotten something, haven’t honoured something, or not yet done something they have required as students. An apology, simple and genuine, without any traces of pride or ego.
It’s in wearing the spotty stockings when you are feeling less-than-colourful, but because it just might be playful and fun.
It’s taking the time to connect with the student who could easily slip under the radar, and you could happily let slip under the radar, because you are exhausted already, and the connection might be uncomfortable and awkward, and you’re sure some other fabulous teacher has got this one already…take the time. That tiny moment, however inept, will be seen for the intent, not the clumsiness, and valued.
It’s ringing the parent to acknowledge their child in stress or success, it’s having the hard conversations calmly, it’s breaking the news to your senior students that they did not go as well as they might have hoped, but that you will walk through the whole process with them again, tirelessly, without putting them, or yourself, in a box.
It’s building the boundaries so that you can reach through them every now and then, at exactly the right moment; it’s getting angry and showing your fire as a teacher when it’s required.
It’s getting ridiculously excited when something goes right. It’s the jumping-up-and-down, fist-pumping, arm-flailing happy bum-wiggle dance down the hallway when the kid who is always late…is not!
It’s acknowledging the student who has done something totally amazing for them, and on the one hand could be very happy with the grade + your quiet acknowledgement, but on the other might just want the world to know. Judging whether a public or parental acknowledgement is suitable? If you take that leap of faith, you could get it very wrong…or very right.
It’s putting the very tender moments into words, it’s letting your students speak freely without censorship, but teaching them self-care and respect as they navigate topics which are on-the-edge, uncomfortable or off-limits at home…the divorce of their parents, the fierce competition between themselves and their siblings, death, love, fears, depression, anxiety…that tiny little thread might be what holds them to life and believing they are real and worthy, and that life at school might just be their constant, rather than at home.
Courage is daring to see your students for all that they are, not just their academic kudos, but all their wonderful, haphazard, intense, ridiculous and extraordinary selves.
It is having the courage to share your story, a part of you, without apology or sacrifice.
That’s stepping into the classroom.
That’s the courage of a teacher.
Letting yourself be seen, and seeing with wonder.