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The Power of Vulnerability

Last week, Opal 2 teacher Zalika included the following TED talk in her blog: 


Here and here are the links to Zalika's powerful posts. Or you can just visit the Opal 2 page.

One of the moments in the talk that resonates so strongly for me is when she comments on the customary practice of holding our newborn babies in our arms and thinking about how perfect they are — and then carefully crafting a life for them which they are increasingly expected to be more so — and shamed when they are not. Instead, she suggests, that we might hold our newborns and accept and consider that they are imperfect. Born to struggle. But worthy of being loved.

She goes on to consider the impact on society of citizens who carry that innate sense of self-worth, versus those who do not.

It is a powerful thing to think about and one that deeply resonates with the approaches and experiences articulated in the Wonder of Learning exhibit and through our work at Opal School. In fact, this inherent belief that individuals have worth and wisdom that all future learning is built upon is the underlying assumption of constructivist education. This is the educational paradigm championed by Montessori, Malaguzzi, Dewey, Bruner, Gardner, Piaget, Vgotsky, Goodman, and the many others who have stood on their shoulders. (Not Steiner/Waldorf — that's something different…lovely and wonderful in it's own right, but not inentionally constructivist.)

"The idea that we construct knowledge is exciting. It affirms the powers that we all have as human beings. It affirms that we are able to create new things and achieve new understandings. And is suggests affinities between the child, the artist, the inventor, the scientist, the explorer."

Howard Gardner, Harvard University

Structures we use at Opal School such as Story Workshop, Science Talks, Math Congress, Class Meetings, Explore, and Literacy Studio are intentionally desgined to invite the construction of knowledge. These structures require and support children to express their prior knowledge and experience and connect it to new information. 

Children develop the sense of self-worth that Brown describes in lots of ways, in every culture, in every kind of family and neighborhood and circumstance. Clearly, an experience in school alone cannot take it away. But I'm certain that it can help. Every time I ask a child — what do you notice? What do you wonder? What story do you have to tell? What connections are you making? And I really listen — that child has an experience of worth, value, and belonging. That child becomes a citizen with rights who is participating in a community of others who have their own experiences and perspectives to share. And that child learns to be vulnerable enough to listen to them as well. That child struggles, is loved, and we all benefit.


3 responses to “The Power of Vulnerability

  1. One of my favorite Ted Talks and so glad to read about how it ties to the work that the Opal team is doing every day in the classroom. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Wow. I loved this talk. How do the whole hearted live? What a question!
    Courageously, compassionately, connected, and with vulnerability.
    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve watched it again and again trying to absorb and learn and reflect.

  3. We showed this video to those participating in the Opal School Visitation Days — it is so powerful and relevant for our work with children. Having this idea in our collective understanding has the potential to transform our teaching and our parenting. Thanks for the comments — I’m glad it is finding resonance with you!

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