Day 81, Friday, January 23, 2009
After listening to another splendid speech by a member of this year’s graduating class, I recalled the famous Harvard study that identified America’s number one fear as public speaking – and I marveled, again, that these 14-year-olds are able, week after week, to rise above that fear. I’m sure the students feel the almost universal fear of being shamed – a fear that their basic unworthiness will be revealed for all to see – and yet they overcome it. They stand before 300+ people and valiantly present themselves for all to see. “This is who I am,” they seem to say. “I accept myself as I am, and I’m ready to handle the world’s criticism.” I did a little research on the word “shame” and discovered that its root meaning is “to cover”, which led me to realize that these young scholars, in refusing to be ashamed of their thoughts and feelings, are actually engaged in the difficult and life-long practice of uncovering themselves. It seems that most of us enfold our lives in layers of protective wrappings, and these youthful students are bravely beginning the process of peeling off those layers. They have already learned, possibly, that hiding yourself is not an option if you want to live a life of fullness and satisfaction. This led me to wonder, perhaps, if all teaching and learning is fundamentally a process of uncovering. Instead of adding wisdom to ourselves, maybe we teachers and students are engaged in uncovering the wisdom that’s always been there. Maybe teaching and learning essentially means revealing and discovering – the kind of fearless labor our 9th grade students take on each Monday morning in the auditorium.