Knowing vs Growing: How vulnerability can evolve our practice
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” —Maya Angelou
Have you ever found yourself in an early childhood Facebook group? Perhaps you have a group that you love, one where those involved are inspiring, reflective and connected. Chances are though, you’ve been drawn in to one of the larger groups with the promise of more interaction, more ideas. You land in one of these large groups and the posts begin rolling on into your newsfeed:
“What are you all doing for mothers day craft?”
“Here’s an hilarious video of a child doing something embarrassing”
“Im so angry. Why do we get treeted like babysitters when we are profesionals? What are ur guys opions? “ (yes, the spelling mistakes are deliberate and way over the top, I know!)
Can I be honest? So much of what is posted in these groups frustrates the life out of me, as I know it does a great many other professionals. But it’s not the content that frustrates me – it’s the responses:
“We painted all the babies hands and turned them into flowers, laminated them and gave them to the mum’s. Soooooo cute!”
“OMG. That is so funny!”
“Its annoying isn’t it? We should get more money. Yeah, I know I should join the union, but I haven’t.”
Ugh. Response after response of groupthink. Every now and then, someone dares to speak up and offer a new perspective:
“Why do we feel the need to do a specific craft activity for mothers/fathers day?”
“I think this video is disrespectful to the child and shouldn’t be on social media.”
“Yes, it is disappointing that our professionalism is not recognised with higher wages. What action could you take to make change?”
And sure enough, that brave response is often shot down, the poster criticised and the practice defended:
“Our children love doing crafts like this and the parents expect it. We don’t force the children, we just keep suggesting that they come and get their hand painted to make a flower. They all eventually do, because it is sooooo much fun!”
“Oh lighten up – it’s a joke!”
“It shouldn’t be up to me to do anything, the government needs to do something. I already work hard enough and don’t want to do anything outside of my work hours – it’s unreasonable that you would ask people to do that!”
And, so it goes on. The people who are questioning, challenging and reflecting often dwindle away, frustrated with the negative backlash that comes from doing so. I have seen professionals who have received threatening personal messages as a result of encouraging others to think a little deeper about the post. That is never okay.
Over the last week, I have been reading Brené Brown’s book “Dare to Lead.” Let me just say – wow! In the book (I wont give too much away, you will have to read it for yourself), Brené speaks at length about vulnerability, and I believe that is a large part of what we are seeing here. When we post on social media, particularly in a public forum, we are being vulnerable. We are putting out our ideas, questions and images into the world, not knowing what we will get back. This should be an opportunity for learning and for growing. For some people though, I suspect there is a desire to simply get back affirmation that what they are doing is “right” or “good”, that they perhaps don’t really want their question answered in any way other than the answer that they already have in their own mind. This is coming from a place of knowing.
None of us “know it all”. There are always new perspectives to hear, new questions to ask, new research to unpack, new discoveries to be made. When we approach posting on social media from a place of knowing rather than a place of growing we limit our own ability to evolve as educators, as professionals.
Being vulnerable in our approach to posting (and responding) on social media means that we post with an open heart and an open mind. We are honest, even when that is hard. We seek to understand, more than to be understood. We understand that there is always room for growing and it isn’t important to be all knowing. And when we do that – we gain new information, skills, understandings and ways of doing that enable us to evolve, both as an educator and as a human being.