Verily vulnerable

I can’t be the only librarian who follows the work of Brene Brown, particularly her study of vulnerability. Under normal circumstances, I would say that I embrace being vulnerable, but these are not normal circumstances, and it seems glaringly obvious to me now that I’ve not been walking my talk. 

The transition to e-learning and working from home has made me feel particularly vulnerable in a few ways that challenge me. From silly to serious, here are some thoughts:

My online appearance

As in awe as I am of those of you who look so polished when I meet you at conferences, I’m just not that kind of gal. However, whether it’s the lighting or the paint colour in my storage room home office, I’d been feeling (and therefore acting) kind of schlumpy, even though I continue to dress as I would for school – likely because it’s not the clothing that’s mostly showing up on screen (although perhaps not in this case). I am now paying a bit more attention to my hair and actually putting on some mascara and lip colour before opening up the virtual library for the day. Taking these extra 3 minutes makes a positive difference in how I look, and therefore feel – who knew?! (all of you, I’m sure…I’m keenly aware that I’m late to this party)

Parental engagement

Like many of you, I love having parents engaged in the life of the school but it’s a bit unnerving having them actually in the classroom. At the end of a recent AP Research class, the mom of one of my students leaned into the video to say hi – so lovely but so unexpected. Once the gerbil wheel of panicked thoughts (was she there the whole time? what did I say today? how did I sound? I often joke with my kids – did my informality come across as unprofessional?) finally slowed down, I realized that it can only be good for me to teach all the time as if a parent is in the room.

The future

I love working at an independent school, where my job depends upon how well I support students and staff; I think the accountability helps to keep faculty engaged and evolving in how best to serve students and families.

Of course this means is that my position is inexorably linked to pandemic / economic-affected admissions; I assume this is the case for many of you as well. The B side to my anxiety about the virus has been concern about what September looks like. I feel valued and supported at my school but I don’t teach math (my slightly-in-jest litmus test of all things necessary). While our virtual library has been steadily busy in the online environment (me being available during the academic day in a Google Meet link for research support & readers’ advisory, as well as visiting virtual classes for instruction), I feel that what I offer to the school is not as obvious as it was on campus. This knot of concern was fairly debilitating for the first few weeks but through much100 walking, I’ve been trying to park it in the land of things-I-cannot-control, and focus on the here and now. Where I am healthy and employed and have much to be grateful for.

Brene tells us that vulnerability is showing up and being seen. Well done you (and me), for doing this each and every day.

8 thoughts on “Verily vulnerable

  1. Shelagh – I totally hear you with the appearance thing. I am pretty laid back. To school, I wear mascara and foundation. That is about it. But headed into quarantime, I went a little crazy. I had my hair cut (10 inches) the first day of our spring break. Then quarantine hit. I don’t do hair so I spent days trying to figure out how to use a flat iron to curl. Because that is what my stylist did. I finally, after two weeks of spring break, figured it out and realized I needed to be on camera and my face had to look good. Sarah Davis and I had checked in and she told me that she was trying out different make up techniques. I found a video on The Skimm, I think, and a girl did a whole tutorial about how to look good on Zoom. Makeup techniques and all. I have never used all of my make up at one time. And I didn’t know I was totally using highlighter incorrectly. Who knew?!

    Now, I actually get up every morning, curl my hair with a straightener, and do my make up for the camera. I honestly think I look better now at home than I did going to school. Hahaha. I figured, if my students and their parents will be seeing me in their living room, I needed to step it up-ish.

    Ditto on “the future”. Scares the pants off of me. But we don’t have to wear pants on Zoom because no one sees below the shoulders, so we’re good! LOL.

  2. I have been feeling exactly the same way! I’ve been working every day to provide services and resources to students, faculty, and families along with troubleshooting project issues. My whole library team has been very engaged, but I also feel that the shadow of uncertainty about September and the question of sustainability is real. The libraries are well supported and staffed at my school but this landscape is very different. Thank you for making me feel less alone and part of a shared experience.

  3. Thanks for your post, Shelagh!
    I share your concerns about the future and our role in distance learning.

  4. Cheers, Shelagh! You nailed it. Love Brene Brown, and all those anxieties and fixes are real. Is that why I’m trying an array of red lipsticks? hang in there, all!!

  5. Thank you for sharing this thoughtful and funny post! Each of these resonated with me, from the use of foundation, to parents answering student questions, to wondering about the future.

  6. Thanks for articulating the many ways I’m feeling vulnerable right now! I so appreciate your humor and candor – just what I need these days!

  7. When it comes to our perceived value and the anxiety about what the fall will bring, I hear you 100%! I try not to think about it too much and just do the best I can. After all, that’s about all we can ever do.

  8. At least I can rest assured I haven’t done what that reporter (bless his heart) did…yet. Thank you for such a thoughtful post!

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