Last week, we hosted a literacy conference at work. Incredible educators such as Cornelius Minor, Lester Laminack, Pam Allyn and Dr. Lindsey Moses were all there sharing their work with 450+ teachers in Texas. Every time I get a chance to learn from the “best” in the field, I simultaneously feel inspired/full and slightly insecure. You see, one of my lofty goals in life is to be a writer. I’m a researcher and a voracious reader, and I can play school like no one’s business. However, when it comes to actually putting pen to paper, I withdraw.
One of my colleagues put a term to this passivity last week. In a moment of inspiration/word vomit, I shared how I was feeling about my own inadequacies. “Oh, you have imposter syndrome,” she said. She later explained that imposter syndrome is this feeling of inadequacy, the instinct that there is someone better/smarter/more well-equipped than you to accomplish a thing. When I go to write, or collect my thoughts, I often think about the incredible scholars publishing text and speaking all over the world on the subjects I’m passionate about, and I withdraw my voice every time. Why would I write about text access when Donalyn Miller already does it so beautifully? Why engage in written conversation around LGBTQ+ literature and student support when I’m straight, and there are queer educators already elbows deep into the work? Why write my queries about privilege and race when, as a white woman, I’m almost certain to make a misstep? I constantly try to convince myself that my voice isn’t a necessary part of the conversation, although this sentiment is the polar opposite of what I would teach my students. I recognize this “imposter syndrome” as an unhealthy thought/insecurity. But what next?
Earlier in the day, I’d been chatting with a group of literary educators and we’d been talking about the terror of using our voice and putting our thoughts out there for the world. “We just need a safe space,” I’d stated. Brian, a work friend who was working in close proximity to us, whirled his chair around. “You gotta get out of your safe space,” he said to us. I was confused–don’t we all need a safe space to test the more risky thoughts in our heads? “You have to move from the safe space to the brave space, or you’ll never accomplish change,” he stated.
This phrase has been running on repeat in my head all week. What does it mean to move towards the “brave space”? When I truly reflect on my research and teaching, I find that I indeed tend to play it safe. In my attempts to address my privilege and biases, I often discuss these with close friends that I know will correct me out of love if I am wrong or misinformed. When attempting to establish myself as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, I hold back from having conversations with specific audiences because I don’t want to deal with the conservative backlash. My heart demands radical thoughts and radical change, but I’ve been paralyzed, self-imposing voicelessness onto the words in my brain and heart.
This blog is proof of it. I started this page in October to battle the hypocrisy I noticed in my practiced. Here would be an online space to use my voice, to explore new ideas, to speak my truth! The last time I’ve written anything? October.
One thing is for sure…the brave space is a space where I want to live. What does this mean for me? I’m going to, as Brene Brown says, “rumble with vulnerability.” I am going to be my authentic self, and I am going to write about my thoughts and wonderings even if I am the only one who sees them. I’m going to take risks. I’m going to start brainstorming projects and seeing them through. I’m going to work on/through getting in my own way, because ultimately, I care about students and I care about my fellow educators. I’m proud to do the work that I do, and I believe in the future of education.
Raise a glass to living in the brave space. Deep breaths, everyone!