Before I left for the Unplug’d Canadian Education Summit, my best friend gave me some solid advice:
Try to be open and let people in.
Our conversation was a little bit longer than that, but the message was about what I had to do in order to truly connect with people.
I didn’t like hearing it.
On my long journey to Toronto and then onward to Northern Edge Algonquin I reflected on my friend’s words and the reason for saying them.
I have walls.
I have built walls in my personal life in order to protect myself. I tell myself that I have built them in my professional life in order to remain professional, but there too, the walls are about protection.
When we first arrived at Northern Edge for Unplug’d, Zoe Brannigan-Pipe shared an observation with me. She noticed that people were unsure how to shed their ‘professional personas’ in what was clearly a casual and intimate camp environment. Although it didn’t take long for that feeling to dissolve, I think we all had to negotiate just how many protective layers we were comfortable shedding on day one of the summit.
After returning home from Unplug’d, Kelly Power blogged about the tension between her professional voice and her authentic voice. When reflecting on what she wished she had said on the last day, during our whole group reflection, Kelly wrote, “I played it safe. I went into consultant mode.”
We all have walls.
Walls protect, but they are also barriers. Walls make being vulnerable difficult, but we have to let ourselves be vulnerable if we want to form deeper connections and relationships with people. Being vulnerable means we may get hurt. Nobody wants a bruised ego or hurt feelings in their personal or professional lives.
What I’m wondering after all of this, is how we recreate elements of Unplug’d in our daily work? How do we create professional environments where people form connections and relationships that allow for risk and vulnerability? Is it foolish to hope for more ‘connectivity’ and deep sharing in education or should we be satisfied with these experiences taking place as events… in pockets?
So how did I do? Did I follow my friend’s advice?
In an effort to be ‘open’, here is an audio recording of my reflection on the last day of Unplug’d (recorded on my livescribe pen).
Oh, and in the mind map by Guilia Forsythe (above), I’m the blonde woman on the right, next to the word vulnerable.