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Vulnerability

January 31, 2013

The first two days of the teaching of physics were a bit unnerving for me and for students this semester. Students ended up being confronted with a lot of things they didn’t know, or weren’t able to do, or didn’t understand–mostly things they were confident they knew, were able to do, and understood. The feeling in class was tense-confidences shaken, identities threatened, feelings of shame rising…

But, today, for whatever reason, we emerged more gracious, more accepting, more willing to be wrong, more willing to open up, more willing to sit with confusion, to listen to others’ confusion, more willing to lean into to the unknown and face it admirably.

More than anything, that constitutes significant progress.

I am asking a lot of these students this semester–a lot of reading, a lot of synthesizing,  a lot demonstrating mastery of physics concepts, a lot of practice teaching, a lot of learning about student thinking, a lot of applying what they’ve learned to new contexts. I am likely going to overwork them to more than one breaking point.

But the hardest thing. The hardest thing may be the vulnerabilities I am asking them to step into and embrace. At least for today, we stood together, courageously so.

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