As we approach the midyear mark, it is important to think about where we started and where we are headed in terms of building community. Concerns have been raised by parents, teachers and students about online sharing. I have spoken to you all in class about why and how I would like you to share, but I wanted to write my way through it as well. This post was born from the statement below, which came to me on a ride home from school. I was on my bike when it hit me:
You cannot have trust without vulnerability. You cannot have risk without fear. You cannot have success without failure, and you cannot learn without community.Last Monday, a group of students met with teachers and parents in the library to discuss this notion of public sharing and disclosure. Why share online? How does it feel? What are the risks? When asked if she felt pressure to share writing online, or if she was being pushed too hard to share when perhaps she wasn't ready, one girl responded by saying that she didn't feel pushed, so much as invited to a door and asked to walk through.
I loved this analogy. I was actually thinking about it the other night when I was here at school marking your final assessments, because I knew that I would ask you to post your final assessments on your blogs. I knew this would cause many of you anxiety? I knew that asking you to post your writing didn't feel much like an invitation, but a rather strong push. Let me explain myself.
I understand what it feels like to be judged and mocked. I understand what it feels like when you cannot do anything right. I understand wanting more than anything to fit in, to be popular, to be liked and accepted, being alone at lunch, or on a Saturday night when you imagine everyone else at parties-- smiling laughing and having fun, while you sit alone wondering how they do it-- make friends, be accepted, have boy friends or girl friends. It seems so easy in life and TV, but I understand that it is not.
You must be asking, if I understand all of this, why would I ask you to share pieces of yourself online, in public where they can all see it? See you and judge and mock you. If I understand how vicious and petty and mean and vindictive teenagers can be, why would I ask you to expose yourself to their wrath. We can hear them now muttering, gossiping, and judging you to your face, behind your back, online and off. Why would I ask you to share your writing with people like this? Especially if you feel that your writing isn't "good?"
I believe in you. I believe in your voice and your writing. What you write and how you write, right now in your life is you. For better or for worse it is true. If you wait until you are writing is perfect or good or accepted you will be waiting forever. If you wait to be yourself and stand behind your ideas you will wait forever. Confidence is about being happy with who you are and where you are in terms of skills. Confidence isn’t about measuring up to other people's expectations. I don't believe in good or bad or ranks or judgements or comparing or anxiety. I believe in confidence through risk and self-esteem through vulnerability. I believe in trust. I believe in communities.
If we believe in trust, we have to trust people. Even when they could let us down. Even when they might betray us. If we believe in trust, we must be trustful people. To do this we must feel comfortable with vulnerability. It is hard to trust people when we are hidden or protected by walls. It is hard to trust people if we do not give them an opportunity to prove that they are trustworthy. Don't get me wrong, they will let us down. They will take our trust for granted. They may attack us. They may hurt us, but if we believe in trust as a concept, we must continue to trust others.
Experience has taught me that people, in general are good, they are to be trusted. When we are open, they will more often than not, prove to be kind and loving. The only way to find out is to give them a chance to prove it.
I am not pushing any of you through the door by asking you to share your writing online. I am simply standing on the other side and telling you that it is fine. I am here. I will take your hand and help you if you fall. I will help you across and show you the way once you are here, but you have to trust me. (Please speak to me one-on-one if you still have reservations and do not want to share your final piece)
Take a look at this:
What do you think? What are your fears? What are the benefits of building online communities of writers? How can sharing your work and your ideas help? Hurt? What can we tell parents who are nervous? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.