January 2019
Newsletter of the Center for Educational Improvement
Vulnerability and Sense of Self
Dear Educators,

Flawed? Do school leaders have flaws? And what about staff and students? Think of the essays that high school juniors and seniors craft as part of their college applications. Aren't we to put our best foot forward, highlight our accomplishments, and compete with others so that we can win coveted spots on the best campuses? So why would we want to admit that we are vulnerable? That we are human? Brené Brown makes a compelling case for acknowledging our vulnerability. This month we both discuss Brown's work and also provide an array of examples of what teachers can do in classrooms to help students work on their vulnerabilities.
Vulnerability, Whole-Heartedness, and Sense of Worthiness
By Daniella Rueda, CEI Intern

Although often perceived in a negative light, vulnerability (emotional vulnerability, that is) is actually a necessary and important state of being for achieving human connection. Brené Brown, a qualitative researcher and self-proclaimed storyteller, has spent the last twenty years of her life studying topics such as shame, empathy, and vulnerability, in an attempt to learn about the “anatomy of connection.” In her renowned Ted Talk, “ The Power of Vulnerability,” Brown shares a deep insight on research that has led her to believe that vulnerability is the key to the sole meaning and purpose in our lives: human connection.

Classrooms, Compassion, and Contentment
By Meghan Wenzel, CEI Intern

Ask someone to share his or her vulnerabilities, and you will likely receive a horrified look or nervous laugh. For most, vulnerabilities are weak spots, shameful imperfections to hide from others. But Brené Brown sees them differently. She sees the power in accepting our vulnerabilities and choosing to love ourselves and others in spite of them.

As humans, we are biologically wired for connection, with belongingness and love being our most basic psychological needs (Maslow, 1943). Brené Brown found that the only difference between people who have a strong sense of love and belonging, and those who do not, is that the former believe they are worthy of love and belonging. We have to practice compassion, open up about our vulnerabilities and insecurities, and believe we are worthy of love. In order to really connect with others and form deep relationships, we have to allow ourselves to really be seen.

Vulnerability, Shame, Courage, and Connection
By Meghan Wenzel, CEI Intern and Christine Mason

In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown talks of masks, “The word persona is the Greek term for ‘stage masks.’ In my work masks and armor are perfect metaphors for how we protect ourselves from the discomfort of vulnerability.” (p. 113).

Sometimes our feeling of vulnerability arises from a sense of shame. Kristen Neff and Christopher Germer (2018) in the Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook, talk about shame, saying that “Shame feels blameworthy, but it is an innocent emotion. Shame feels lonely and isolating, but it is a universal emotion. Shame feels permanent and all-encompassing, but it is a transitory emotional state that only correspondents to part of who we are.” (p.121). As they state, “One of the reasons shame is so intense, is that it feels like our whole survival is at stake.” (p. 121).

CEI’s S-CCATE ™ tool is a validated instrument
that measures teacher feedback on social-emotional learning interventions.

It is designed to improve the mindfulness, compassion, courage, equity, neuroplasticity, and cultural competence of K-12 students .

Available January 2019

"Vulnerability requires bravery, because you no longer hide parts of yourself that you think are too ugly or complicated for others to see” - Power of Positivity web-site.

There are so many reasons to hide our vulnerability. There are probably just as many reasons, and more, to learn how to address the very parts of ourselves that we seek to avoid. Have you had a discussion with your teachers about vulnerability? Which of your teachers are addressing the power of vulnerability with their students?

Christine Mason
Center for Educational Improvement