This blog post is based off on an upcoming online course called “Connecting Through Vulnerability” by Dr. Matthew Arau, that will soon be available on Atomic Learning. Dr. Arau is an Assistant Professor at Lawrence University and has a background in student leadership. (More about Dr. Arau)
Have you had a teacher or college professor in the past that was a wealth of knowledge, but seemed unable to connect to the students? Because of that lack of connection, the students in that course were most likely disengaged or mentally checked out. On the flip side, there are also those instructors that are able to truly connect what they know with their students and engage in the learning process.
We all have had those teachers or instructors from the past that fit both scenarios. But, what’s the difference? That is what Dr. Matthew Arau calls “the missing link”, and he believes it is often connection and vulnerability.
In his online course, Dr. Arau tells a story of when he was teaching high school several years ago. Specifically, how he was able to easily develop friendships with his students, and had no problems having great conversations with them. However, the moment he took the podium, that connection seems to dissipate.
It wasn’t until a colleague mentioned how differently he carried himself when he was up in front of the class that he realized he was trying to be someone he wasn’t and it was negatively effecting his connection with the students.
The solution: He simply needed to be himself and be authentic.
That realization helped him understand the importance of connection. When we connect, we can both increase learning and enjoyment of learning.
Dr. Arau’s story could also be true of school administrators, fellow teachers, and staff members. By being authentic and yourself, you can help create connections that will build and strengthen the greater school community.
Have you ever noticed that when you share a personal story–maybe even something slightly embarrassing– it opens a connection with the person you were speaking with? By sharing, you open the door for others to feel welcome to share something a little vulnerable about themselves.
The more vulnerable you are, the more connected you can feel with your audience. Sharing personal stories of struggles and real life can have a profound effect. When we as humans see somebody being vulnerable and speaking about their fears, hopes, or frustrations, we see them as being courageous.
The more vulnerable you are with your intended audience, the greater the connection.
Some Strategies to Try:
While these things may sound overly simple, or perhaps even silly, they can have a big impact on first impressions and connections. Whether you are connecting with teachers, students, parents, or other stakeholders, be aware of the following:
- When someone walks into your office or classroom, greet them at the door and learn their name as fast as possible. Everyone wants to be acknowledged by name.