Vulnerability, Innovation, and Creativity in the Classroom

By Kathy Reeves
14 March, 2017


Last week I had the pleasure of hearing Brenè Brown’s talk, “Daring Classrooms,” at SXSWEDU. She defines a daring classroom as “a place where both teachers and students commit to choosing courage over comfort, choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy and practicing values rather than professing them.”

So if teachers and students are going to choose courage over comfort, what does that look like?  According to Brown, “courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” It starts with being vulnerable. And, “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”  If our students are going to be creative, forward thinkers, there must be some level of vulnerability. They have to really put themselves in a vulnerable position to risk suggesting innovative ideas that others may disagree or find fault with.

How do we, as educators, create a classroom climate where students feel confident expressing their thoughts and ideas? First, we must not use shame as a classroom management tool. We’ve all been there and done that, even if it was unintentional or in our body language. Secondly, we must require students to be respectful of one another at all times. Brown says that “85% of the men and women we interviewed remember something so shaming from their school experience that it changed how they think of themselves as learners.”

Teachers will never be perfect (more on that here), but we must be aware and constantly working to create that positive, nurturing classroom environment. We must understand how much shame costs us in terms of lost learning opportunities and creative expression. We must work to create classrooms where students are not afraid, and we are not afraid, to be vulnerable.

I have been checking the SXSWEDU Youtube channel daily, waiting for Brown’s talk to be posted. As of today it isn’t available. I recommended checking later at this link for a future posting of the video. In the meantime, you can watch Brown’s Ted Talks.

What are your thoughts about shame and vulnerability in the classroom? Leave me a note below.


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