This word was spoken triumphantly and repeatedly as self-speak by a talented pre-service, k-12 special education teacher during my course Library Resources for Children. Until I heard her say it several times through the semester, I hadn‚Äôt seen how one word can hold an entire teaching philosophy. I hadn‚Äôt considered how the power of that word multiplies when it takes the form of self-speak. I hadn‚Äôt realized how much it scared me to think that that word might follow her into a k-12 classroom.
When I learned that my own teaching philosophy existed on the pinhead of a single word whenever I‚Äôve thought it at myself, I needed to send to this email to that amazing up-and-coming teacher:
Ahoy [Pre-Service Teacher],
You know, something has been sitting uncomfortably with me. I‚Äôve heard you say several times this semester, ‚ÄúNow, I just feel so stupid about . . . ‚ÄĚ I believe you. I especially believe you because I felt that way for a very, very long time. OK‚ÄĒsometimes I still do.
But: Lack of awareness is not the same as ignorance. Ignorance is a choice, a willful turning away from knowledge. That choice is the antithesis of education, and anyone who pursues a teaching career with that kind of mentality defines a form of their hypocrisy.
You are where you belong. How beautiful to challenge our own assumptions when we are presented with perspectives that we have not yet been able to understand. It‚Äôs the wonder of timing. We get a barrage of information every single second, so now is the time for whatever bit of information to dawn on you as an ah-HA! May those never, ever stop happening for you.
It‚Äôs been so hard to re-orient myself and rejoice in those gah! What was I thinking? moments. There‚Äôs so much empowerment in being reminded that I‚Äôm still alive and connecting to others, which is a glorious education both inside and beyond the classroom. It‚Äôs my cue to ‚Äúdo better.‚ÄĚ
We‚Äôre not stupid. We‚Äôre not ignorant. The biggest lessons with the most powerful punch are smack dab in the middle of the uncomfortable moments‚ÄĒalways the clearest indicator that we‚Äôre present in a perfect storm of learning. The truly brave then know there‚Äôs an adventure to have if we look for even more information about our perception gap.
I‚Äôm finding out that my feeling stupid is also a gut reaction of fear that the person I‚Äôm learning from is judging me and thinking less of me. Maybe they are. I suspect that the grading system used by institutional education is part of what creates that fear. But we can be gentler and kinder to ourselves. Now I try to be grateful for those learning moments and to let the fear of judgment go. I don‚Äôt always do this, but I‚Äôm trying to let go of fear and say aloud something like, ‚ÄúThank you for gifting me this moment of clarity.‚ÄĚ
Stupid can be such a divisive word. It‚Äôs such a harmful way of trying to cut ourselves off from the authenticity of the wonderful human being we were before. It‚Äôs harmful because it rejects the fact that you always had, and will continue to have, the capacity to learn.
Don‚Äôt worry. You‚Äôre a better person than you were a moment before, and it‚Äôs mostly because of the most real form of education. You are already a wonderful teacher because, if we can‚Äôt teach ourselves joyfully, we‚Äôll never be able to teach others joy.
Thank you for making me uncomfortable. Thank you for gifting me this moment of clarity.
Dr. Stacy Greathouse is an instructor and Instructional Designer at Texas Woman‚Äôs University. Her definition of success is to hear or say at least once a day, ‚ÄúI never thought about it that way!‚ÄĚ