Daring Greatly: Chapter 3-Understanding and Combating Shame (AKA GREMLIN, NINJA, WARRIOR TRAINING)

Welcome back to the #D100bloggerPD book study. If you’re just joining us, feel free to read the kickoff post on Literacy Loving Gals, then hop on over to BigTime Literacy’s reflection on Chapter 2: Debunking the Vulnerability Myths. Let’s get started with Chapter 3: Understanding and Combating Shame.

Brown dives deeper into the complexity of vulnerability and shame in her third chapter of Daring Greatly. She shares with us how "...we all experience shame. We're afraid to talk about it. And the less we talk about it, the more we have of it (pg. 62). When reading this chapter, you cannot help but think about the shame you may feel in your personal and professional life. Moreover, how you handle the shame.

“We all have both light and dark inside us. What matters is that part we choose to act on. That's who we really are (pg. 61).”

Whenever we dare greatly, Brown argues, we put ourselves in a vulnerable state, leaving us susceptible to being attacked by the gremlins from outside critics, including our largest critics, ourselves. Sometimes the natural consequences of daring greatly is experiencing a negative reaction of disappointment, failure, and heartbreak. We know when we take risks and allow ourselves to truly be vulnerable, there is a possibility we may fail, and thus, enable shame to creep into our lives.  
So the questions become, how do we combat shame? How to we defend ourselves against the destructive grip that comes from shame? Well, Brown shares with us the value of courage. In order to overcome shame, Brown reminds herself staying true to her value of being courageous allows her to put up a warrior defense against her gremlins. However, we are only human. We will still feel the pain in connection with the exposing of ourselves in a vulnerable state.
Why don't we talk about shame? Brown argues pain which comes from shame is an extreme fear of disconnection and losing our sense of belonging.  Brown's reference to our sense of belonging reminds me of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs that was first published in 1943 in A Theory of Human Motivation. Once our basic physiological and security needs are met, we crave for the need to be loved and intimate in our relationships. If we we do not experience a sense of belonging, community, and intimacy, difficulty arises in loving yourself and reaching self-actualization.
After extensive research, Brown has identified twelve shame categories which tend to lurk in all of the familiar places in our lives. Brown argues we use guilt, humiliation, and embarrassment synonymously with shame. She pinpoints each of these are, in fact, different from one another. We should not use these terms interchangeably.
Brown’s Categories of Shame (page 69)
Appearance and body image
Money and work
Mental and physical health
Surviving Trauma
Being stereotyped or labeled

We experience shame differently depending on our self-talk. When we feel guilty, we are associating the actions of what happened as bad, not that we are actually a bad person. We possess a guilty emotion when we do not live up to our expectations or we have not been able to stay true to our values.  Brown states the emotion of guilt is “as powerful as shame, but its influence is positive, while shame’s is destructive (pg. 72).  

Humiliation and embarrassment can also be confused with shame. Humiliation is believed to be something done an individual in an unfair way. Embarrassment is a temporary emotion rooted in humor. Most individuals are aware it does not define who we are.
In order to celebrate our inner warriors and combat our body’s most natural defense of “flight or flight,” Brown shares four key power moves, which include recognizing shame and its triggers, practicing critical awareness, reaching out and speaking shame. These defenses can enable us to obtain empathy from ourselves and others. When we experience empathy we are able to build a connection.  

Furthermore, writing about traumatic experiences can greatly reduce shame we feel in a short amount of time. When my daughter was born seven weeks prior to her due date, I am unaware if my first emotion was shame. I definitely felt more anger and worry.  However, as the year went on, and she was home and growing into a healthy little girl, the shame did start to seep in. Questions began swirling through my mind: 

What have I done wrong?
Why has she arrived so early?
What if this all happens again with our next child?
What if my little girl doesn’t meet her milestones?
Am I at fault?
Why me? 

At the time, I could barely speak about my experience with those I love. I would always become overwhelmed with emotion. My next step was a decision to write about my feelings. I began writing my little one letters throughout her first year. These helped me share my feelings of sadness and guilt. However, I noticed that, slowly, as time passed, the letters moved from shame into the pure joy of being her mom. This chapter helped me gain perspective on my personal journey over the past three years. I am now pleased to be able to finally recognize the positive outcomes of this journey. This recognition, alongside the reading of Daring Greatly, has allowed me to speak about my experience.  

While men and women deal with their pain and shame differently, Brown discusses the importance of practicing love. She quotes from her book The Gifts of Imperfections:

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen or known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.

Love is not something we give or get. It is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each of them-we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged healed, and rare.

Brown sums up her chapter in the very last two pages with the notion “to love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the single greatest act of daring greatly”. 

I couldn't help but connect the end of the chapter to Whitney! This song has always been one of my favorites to belt out after a long day, but now it really has a connection in my life after engaging in this chapter with Ms. Brown!

At least I live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity

Because the greatest
Love of all Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all inside of me

The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all

Whitney Houston, “The Greatest Love of All”

Stay tuned for Chapter 4: The Vulnerability Armory from Amy!

Relationship Building

Make time for Relationships 

When it comes to reflecting on our school community I cannot help but remember Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. I think this visual does a good job of summarizing his theory in behavioral psychology and what motivates people. When we think about getting our staff and students to reach their greatest potential, know themselves, and feel comfortable taking risks, or what Maslow would refer to as self-actualization, we need to be reminded that there are other critical steps that need to be in place before self-actualization and accurate reflection can happen.

The pivotal level in working with both students and staff is the level of a sense of belonging. The first two levels have to do with basic needs and in schools there are a lot of systems to ensure the safety and physical well being of both staff and students.  I would argue that the third level, a sense of belonging, is absolutely necessary and one of the most difficult levels to move through if an “us vs them” mentality exists your school community.

An essential strategy strategy that a leader can utilize in their toolbox is to make time to build relationships. These relationships include your students, parent community, teachers and staff. When you take the time to invest in others, a feeling of belonging and acceptance develops therefore transforming the culture in your school community. Relationship building starts with strategically having opportunities for students and staff to participate in low risk discussions and activities. Just as we do with our students, having staff members participate in conversations that are “fun” and non-academic allow relationships to begin to build and break down barriers. Find ways to strategically engage staff into conversations surrounding safe topics prior to sharing ideas about their personal and professional goals, their successes and failures, their hobbies and interests and even their pet peeves. 

Another strategy that leaders can utilize to develop relationships and a sense of belonging is to be visible. A visible leader is one who actively participates in relatively everything that you ask your teams to do. Especially in the beginning of your tenure, it is very important to show you are investing in the systems, policies, and schedules that are put into place. By actively engaging in being a visible leader, you are showing your commitment to reflecting on the practices that have put into place. This opens up dialogue and begins to build trust among staff and students. 

I would also share that celebrating even the smallest amount of success begins to bring individuals together. People are less likely to solely be focused on their own agenda if they understand the people they are working with, see their leader as someone who is supportive and visible, and celebrates accomplishments. 

With all that being said, relationships take time to build. The actions and what you model as a leader affect the relationships you are building in your school community.

What does the future hold for our students?

What will your classroom look like five years from now?

As educators we plan for everything.  We plan for the struggling, the advanced, the bubble, the unexpected, the expected, the motivated, the uninvolved, the dreamer, the creator, the list goes on forever.

Most of our planning also is done for a specific period of time.  We plan for the week or the unit.  We also might plan for the quarter or semester.  Having a plan is your road map.  It helps you see the path you want to take.  There will always be conditions along this journey that can accelerate or detour your trip.  

My question that we should take time to reflect on is-how do we plan for learning opportunities that have not been identified yet?  The technologies and classroom structures of today will be considered dated five years from now.  Think back to what you were doing  in your classroom five years ago.  Five years ago, I was using iPad2s in my classroom and beginning to have students engage in collaborative conversations using Google Apps at their table groups.  Today students in our school, are engaging in conversations with learners on the other side of the world in their Makerspaces.  Students are publishing work in their own blogs or using their own social media accounts to connect with one another in cafe style classrooms.

How do we plan for today to prepare our students for the future?  What learning opportunities will you provide today to enhance their chances to be successful in a competitive tomorrow? Technologies and learning opportunities are always evolving and so must the teacher and more importantly the leader.  We can no longer plan for just the unit, the semester the 2018-2019 school year; we need to plan for the opportunities that will be staring at us with bright head lights five to ten years from now.  As you begin to reflect on what your classroom will look like in five years-do not forget about your why and how will you ensure that your why drives your planning for the future learning opportunities of your students.

In two years my daughter will be entering kindergarten.  She already knows how to search on an iPad.  She knows how to take pictures and videos on an iPhone.  She knows how to engage in conversations using FaceTime and other video chats.  How will her educational experience be different?  How will we embrace what she already knows how to do with technology in order to better prepare her for the occupations that haven't even been invented yet?

While these are not questions i expect us to answer over night; i do expect us to take the time to understand the urgency. Time does not stand still for anyone or anything.  

"Because Nice Matters"-Dr. Laura Tyson

"Because Nice Matters"-Dr. Laura Tyson, former North Central College Professor of Education

A few years ago I interviewed several students from all of our classrooms and asked them what they liked most about their teacher, and in every group someone said they were 'nice".  When I dug deeper by asking them to explain what they meant by that, they shared ideas that centered around the themes of compassion, passion, flexibility and responsiveness.

When you look at this through a leadership lens, we want to model what we want to see more of in our schools.  My college professor and advisor at North Central College, Dr. Tyson led with the belief that even when all else fails, kindness will shine through.  She exemplified this in her classrooms, in her advisory sessions, and even with her colleagues.  Her passing came unexpected for many of us.  By the time we found out she was sick, we only had a short amount of time to show her the time and gratitude that she gave to all of us.  

When I think about what I want to model and reward as a leader I think about what it means to be kind.  Kindness is not a sign of weakness, but it is a sign of extreme strength especially when working with particularly challenging families, students, and yes colleagues.  There are always options and opportunities to problem solve, show understanding, and learn from your experiences.  

When working with students, I especially keep this notion at the forefront of my decision making.  Our students come to us with a variety of experiences.  Those students whose situations can be more challenging, most likely are experiencing challenges out of their control in their home.  Taking the time to put yourself in that student's shoes, or giving some extra time to truly listen to them, or even asking them your request one more time (even though you already asked them three times prior) goes such a long way with them.  They will remember you for putting their needs before your own, for showing a great amount of compassion, and for taking the extra time to be nice to them when so many others are not.

Do not get me wrong, this takes a lot of extra time and patience, but if we make it part of our regular routine it does not have to be.  Take the extra time to learn as many students' names as possible in your school, smile and greet students as they enter the building in the morning, give high fives to students as they leave at the end of the day and tell them you can't wait to see them tomorrow!

If you are truly and genuinely being kind, it becomes contagious.  It will catch on like wild fire through your hallways.  First to your students, then to your staff, and then to your families.  Before you know it, the culture and community you are building will be exactly what you are longing for.  Do yourself a favor and outline what you want to model in your building.  Reward what you want more of. Model every day what you stand for.

The Evolution of Your Why

The Evolution of your Why

Experiences shape who we are and who we want to become.  Educators make thousands of choices a day.  With every word spoken, every facial expression, and every non verbal gesture, we send a message to our students, staff, and communities.  Every day we choose whether or not we are going to uphold the values of our why.   What experiences did you give to your students today?  Was it aligned with your why? If it was, how can you magnify that experience tomorrow for more children?  If it was not, what obstacles are stopping you from living your why?

I want to challenge you to draft 3-5 belief statements around your why.   Then take a minute to reflect on the experiences that you are creating for your students inside and outside of your class.  Are these experiences aligned with your belief statements?  Are your belief statements inclusive of all types of learners? What policies and procedures do you have that might need to be altered because they are not aligned to your why?  Use this time at the start of the 3rd quarter to center yourself on your why and your beliefs about education.  Take time to draft belief statements that will drive you to live and breathe your why.

My Why: being the best role model I can be for my students

My Belief Statements:

1.  I believe that school is THE CORE of a community (it is the hub for nurturing positive relationships, risk-taking, and celebration of growth).

2. I believe that every student deserves the very best education (a teacher who believes in them, who sees them for who they are and who they want to become).

3. I believe all students have to capacity to learn and accomplish their goals with the right tools, opportunities, and teachers.

4. I believe that I have the ability to create meaningful experiences for my students that not only impact their academics, but also their development in being responsible and respectful citizens of their local and global communities.

5.  I believe every child is unique and that is what makes our job special, challenging, and never dull! (We have the opportunity to have different relationships with every child in our classrooms.)

Understanding Your Why

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

One of the most important pieces of leadership is being able to identify your "why".  What is your purpose for what you do each day?  This purpose is more than just a response that you share with others.  It is your aspiration, your motivation, your drive for every decision that you make each and every day.  Before you can truly be an effective teacher, colleague, and leader, being able to identify your why, living and breathing your why, is absolutely critical.  This is the piece of you that motivates you when challenges become overwhelming.  This is the piece of you that pushes you to reflect and grow.  This is the piece of you that makes you smile when you remind yourself of why you decided to go into your profession.  It is the heart of you.

I believe your why can change with experience, application, reflection, and circumstance.  It evolves because you are being shaped every day by your encounters with others that enable you to refine your beliefs and core values.  I know that my why has strengthened over the years because of the students I have met, the leaders who have influenced me, and the communities in which I have served.

Identifying my why for wanting to become a teacher began in high school.   I was fortunate enough to have wonderful education experiences growing up.  Because of those experiences I decided that the very best role model a child could have in their life (besides their parents) was their teacher.  I knew that I wanted to be someone my students could count on and look up to.  I wanted to be that example of someone in their life that they felt was the prime example of a great teacher.

Over the years, I have used Dr. King's quote to motivate me to stay true to who I have wanted to be for my students as a teacher and an administrator.  I chose to work back in the community that gave me so many wonderful experiences because I believe that our students deserve the same and even better.  Berwyn has its share of challenges and keeping my why of being the very best role model for my students has kept me focused on the experiences I want to give them every day when they walk through the doors of my school.

I have recently shared my why with other leaders in my building and in our district and they too have shared theirs with me.  Understanding a person's why strengthens your empathy for others and your ability to work towards common goals.  If you have not done so yet, I would encourage you to take a few minutes to jot down your why in a Sketchnote, on a Post-it, or even in an email to yourself, and keep it handy for rainy days when you are lost in the whirlwind of a school year and need a reminder of your purpose, your aspiration, your drive.

Daring Greatly: Chapter 3-Understanding and Combating Shame (AKA GREMLIN, NINJA, WARRIOR TRAINING)

Welcome back to the #D100bloggerPD book study. If you’re just joining us, feel free to read the kickoff post on Literacy Loving Gals , ...