I recently met up with an old colleague with whom I had attended Uni, and we ended up teaching our early days at the same school. Our jobs have us travelling to different schools, and we got onto the conversation of cracking the ‘tough teacher’, the one who just won’t let the authoritarian approach go. The Trunchbulls seem to relentlessly come down hard on students in an attempt to achieve progress by demanding respect and compliance.
If only the Agatha’s in our school systems could see the benefits of showing their students that you are also human! There is, of course, a balance to strike, but if we treat students as things to control, we may find that is why they are out of control.
Here is a list of pros and cons that might guide teachers on why showing some vulnerability is a great way to build student trust, cooperation, and respect.
- Building Trust: When teachers allow themselves to be vulnerable, it can foster a sense of trust and connection with students. Students are more likely to open up and engage in meaningful discussions when they see their teacher is genuine and relatable.
- Emotional Support: Being vulnerable allows teachers to provide emotional support to students who may be going through difficult times. Sharing personal stories of overcoming challenges can inspire and motivate students to persevere through their struggles.
- Enhanced Learning Environment: An open and vulnerable classroom environment can increase student participation and a more inclusive atmosphere. Students may feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas when they know their teacher values their emotions and experiences.
- Empathy and Understanding: By sharing personal experiences, teachers can demonstrate empathy and understanding towards their students’ struggles and emotions. This can create a more compassionate and understanding classroom community.
- Modelling Emotional Intelligence: Being vulnerable can teach students about emotional intelligence and how to navigate their feelings. It sets an example of healthy emotional expression and communication.
- Overexposure: There is a fine line between being vulnerable and oversharing. Teachers risk sharing too much personal information, leading to discomfort or boundary issues with students.
- Emotional Toll: Constantly being vulnerable can emotionally drain teachers. It may also lead to burnout, as teachers carry the emotional weight of their students’ struggles along with their own.
- Misinterpretation: Students might misinterpret a teacher’s vulnerability as a weakness, potentially affecting the teacher’s authority in the classroom.
Being vulnerable with students has its merits and drawbacks. It can foster trust, empathy, and a more inclusive learning environment. However, it should be approached cautiously to avoid overexposure, maintain professionalism, and consider students’ needs and preferences. Striking a balance between openness and maintaining appropriate boundaries is key to effectively harnessing the benefits of vulnerability in the classroom.
Check out other articles Sheila has written here.