Monday, June 1, 2015

The Three R's of Teaching with Transparency

 In a recent #satchat Twitter chat, I was talking about being a transparent educator. Transparency is a hard and scary task- it is honesty and openness at it's rawest. It is something as a rule I run from screaming like a girly girl that just saw a mouse. It makes me feel uncomfortable to be that real with anyone- to lay open my insecurities, my strengths, my weaknesses- being that vulnerable...well it sucks. There is a good chance I won't be the "professional" I should be because it also means leaving my emotions open, and when my emotions are open- I cry. I'm a big giant blubbering ball of sniffle because I tend to feel my emotions, all of them, like the intensity of the sun. Just typing all this makes me fluttery in my tummy!

BUT, there are benefits to transparency. When someone is transparent, we trust them. Mother Teresa said, "honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway." Transparency is an unifier. Good things happen faster when others see that their leader is "human."

I'm playing the alliteration game strong lately but it helps me to remember things as I get older especially! As I look at the value of transparency, I see three valuable "R's" that happen when associated with the teacher profession.
  • Transparency makes us RELATIONAL. If we are truly "ourselves" as educators, we break down the walls of pretense. We no longer have this added lingering "getting to know you' time because we are human to our students. We have allowed them to see us "horns, warts, and all." Our transparency helps us to be more approachable and in that, students feel comfortable letting us in their worlds. When we strive to have relationships with our students they notice, and most the time they want to be known. Think back in your lifetime, the people in your life you most wanted affirmation from were the ones that you were in relationship with- not some teacher that sat behind their desk and didn't even know your name by the end of the year. Being relational may mean taking what we have always thought of as valuable instructional time to just do things that allow safety and unity in the classroom. While it is scary to sometimes take time for things such as this, the culture of the classroom changes so much that accelerated learning can then happen due to these safe relationships.
  • Transparency makes us RELEVANT. I am 46 years old and only remember a handful of my teachers names from middle and high school. Why is that? For the most part they were just a nameless face day after day imparting the knowledge I needed for the test. I was a quiet kid and flew under the radar making A's and B's most of the time. I took no extra energy on the part of the teacher because I was easy. To me, my teachers were an irrelevant part of my life- a necessary evil, if you will. They never asked why I missed school the day after I missed, they never wondered what I meant by a comment and where it might have stemmed from. They didn't know me so therefore they and their classes seemed irrelevant to me. As oppose to a few teachers that stand out in my mind- like my business education teacher who found me in the hallway at the beginning of my senior year to suggest I take "Accounting 2" in her classroom while she taught typing (it didn't really fit in my schedule) because "I just seemed to have a knack for accounting." I hadn't even thought about taking Accounting 2 but her interest in me made me want to do so. Is it any small wonder that I later became an Accountant and then a Business Education Teacher?
  • Transparency makes us REFLECTIVE. Not just us as educators, but our students too. Transparency allows us to push our students a little bit deeper beyond the norm. By being transparent we can ask them WHY not just WHO, WHAT, WHEN, and WHERE, and there is a good possibility they will take the time to figure out the WHY just because we asked. A transparent educator can easily slip into the role of mentor. All of a sudden we aren't just the computer teacher but we are also being sought out by students as they deal with struggles, successes, confusion, and life. We become a safety net for our students through our transparency, a place where they feel comfortable (or at least not miserable) to reflect on decisions. As educators ourselves, transparency with ourselves allows for real, raw, deep reflection. Sometimes we are least transparent with ourselves as humans. We want to be a certain way so we convince ourselves that we are. If we teach and lead transparently, we will be less likely to be surprised when the world doesn't see us a certain way. We also will become more honest about where there is room for improvement in our lives. Which of course, can only lead to becoming better teachers.