Wholeheartedness – Shirley Hall


It was easy deciding on a topic to write about today.

The heart…Love.

We are told that love is in the air, all is fair in love and war, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. There is much ado about love.

“Yes,” you may say, “this is true.” “But what does love have to do with teaching and learning?” Perhaps Thomas Carlyle said it best when he wrote, “A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge.”

Yesterday the entire CTE team participated in our annual PD Day. We had a lot of fun. We got to know one another a little better. We played games like “Two Truths and a Lie” using iClickers to reveal little known facts (and fibs) about each other. We laughed a lot. We shared a little more than we would have in a work setting. We risked being vulnerable – perhaps letting others get to know us just a little bit better. In so doing, a new level of trust was built. We are a fortunate bunch. We respect and care about one another.

But letting others see who we really are is risky. Yes, I want to live “wholeheartedly.” There are times though, that I feel fear – fear of not being “good enough” -as a worker, instructor, parent. Paradoxically, being vulnerable takes courage. In order for me to connect with students, colleagues, even family and friends, I have to let my guard down and be real, authentic. Risk showing who I really am. Fortunately, I have teachers who help me see that I am not alone in feeling apprehensive about this.

My most recent teacher has emerged from the pages of a book I have been reading. The book is by Brené Brown, it is called “Daring Greatly.” I suggest checking her out if you haven’t already. For a sneak peak into some of the wisdom of her book, you can also find her on TED talks. When I thought of love today, I thought of this book. From the dust cover, “Brown explains how vulnerability is the both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief and disappointment and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation and creativity.” She writes about the importance of recognizing our vulnerabilities, and accepting them as insights to greater meaning and understanding in our lives.

Chapter 6 of her book is titled, “Disruptive Engagement: Daring to Rehumanize Education and Work”, and holds many great examples of how to best lead. Brown’s description of a leader is “anyone who holds themselves accountable for finding potential in people and processes.” Further into the chapter, I found her idea of vulnerability being at the “heart” of the feedback process. I am working on adapting some of her strategies about student presentations and assessment into my courses. I think it’s worth the risk.

I would like to bring the spirit of wholeheartedness into my life and also my classroom, and by practicing some of the ideas suggested in this book, I have made a start. In the end, it is the loving thing to do. For myself, and others.

Brené Brown, Daring Greatly. How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. 2012. Gotham Books, New York.

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Shirley Hall is a research associate at the Centre for Teaching Excellence at the University of Waterloo. When not learning about learning, she spends time with her teenage son and with her dog, learning about life.

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