My wonderful sister-in-law and dear friend is a first year art teacher in Chicago, working incredibly hard to bring creative spirit and art-loving to her sometimes-angry-on-the-outside students.  I love hearing about her ideas, her plans, and her projects.  Her job is tough, and in many ways not a perfect fit for her, but she’s persevering.  Today, she shared a moment with me that made me smile and reflect.

Music was playing in the background during her 4th grade class.  Without premeditation, she began to dance, in her famously silly style.  The students, who had maybe never seen quite this much authenticity from their teacher, burst into laughter and just didn’t stop.

Some might call it a management disaster, but I couldn’t agree with her more when she described it to me as a “beautiful moment.”

What she’s realizing, and what I was so thankful for the reminder of, is that in order to teach and community-build effectively, we have to be ourselves.  It’s just not possible to fake it forever.  Kids want to know their teachers.  They want to know the serious and the silly.  They want to see that we respond emotionally and that we are impacted by what they say and do.  They want to feel loved and cared for, but they can only feel that way if there’s significant trust in the room.  I have to believe that spontaneous dancing leads to more trust.  On both sides.

I congratulate my friend for being vulnerable in front of her students, and for seeing the beauty in that moment.  I can’t wait to hear about the next time she dances.  And in the meantime, I think I’ll try to do a bit of dancing myself.

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