Vulnerability has been a theme of my life these days so I’d like to be honest with you: I was nervous walking in the doors of Red Bank Middle School on my first day of teaching.
I wasn’t teaching on my own—not by any means—but entering a new environment with entirely new people made me anxious. Especially since I was teaching young kids, an age group I never had much experience working with before.
Regardless, I had an intention that day to help others, so I took a deep breath, put on my best mindset, and walked in the door.
In the classroom, kids chattered, showing off the pencils and notebooks Project Write Now had given them, and as we all settled and introduced ourselves, we began our first lesson in communicating our emotions.
With the intention of sharing, we wrote down all the emotions we had experienced this week relating to prompted feelings of being scared, sad, angry, or happy. We broke into smaller circles, and as I guided my group in discussion, I noticed they all hesitated to share what they wrote.
So despite my similar hesitations, I started: Today, I was scared. Even at my age, I get scared to meet new people, too. And I watched as in response to my vulnerability, the kids gradually began to share their fears openly.
In that instant, I wasn’t a twenty-something with my adult problems and my adult questions and my adult feelings, and they weren’t fourth and fifth graders I was teaching. We were just human beings connecting with each other and sharing the lens through which we experience life. There’s a word for this feeling: sonder. The realization that each and every soul you come in contact with lives a life as vivid and complex as your own. With sonder in my heart that day, I watched as the kids shared their feelings with each other, and I became acutely aware of the rising magic of an expansion outside my limited perception.
Through the next six weeks, these kids lit up my Mondays with their smiles and stories and their wonderful growth in vulnerability, communication, and writing. Little did they know, I learned just as much from them as they did from me.
They taught me being vulnerable is an art form, just as writing is. It’s a state of self-expression that is uniquely inherent to who you are, and it is always deserving of respect and a gentle extended hand to say I understand you. Because the human heart is a delicate thing. However, through repeated bravery and trust in others, you’ll find the voice to speak from even your most vulnerable places. In doing so, you’ll connect even deeper with those around you. That much, they showed me, was always true.
Fostering a space where these kids could authentically express themselves, treat others’ hearts with care, and learn the power writing has to release our heaviest burdens was a true honor. I look forward to working with Red Bank Middle School again in the months to come!