Authority and Vulnerability

In yesterday's class about vulnerability and authority, I experimented with a couple of different ways to a. make myself vulnerable and b. let go of (share?) some authority as the professor:
  • I asked you all for advice on a teaching question
  • I encouraged you to turn your questions about the effectiveness of feminist pedagogy strategies onto our class by asking you to assess how we negotiate the various levels of knowledge about feminism/feminist theory/feminist pedagogy
  • During discussion, I remained silent so as to listen to what you all had to say
In what ways were these strategies effective? Not effective? Can you think of other methods for sharing authority? What about ways to ensure that you (as the teacher) are not too vulnerable?


I think asking for our advice was a move that while perhaps humbling and de-centering your position, also empowered us as worthwhile voices. It definitely suggested a willingness to be vulnerable to the class in saying "I don't have all the answers, and I respect you all enough to find out if you might be able to help me."

I am looking forward to hearing how things worked out in the Queer Theory class! : )

I have been thinking about your question while I finish up the final draft of my syllabus. I have been wrestling with how much authority to give my students in terms of choosing readings, determining the course of class discussion, etc. Personally, there is always the fear of letting go of the teacher role in order to get more out of the learner role...suddenly the entire class derails, time is wasted, people are frustrated...this is the definition of vulnerability for me.

I wonder about the level of vulnerability changing with the type of student (i.e. undergrads v. future administrators), but I don't know if if would change because the expectations for our students also changes. (Or does it? We still always expect engagement, critical thinking, application of new skills/knowledge, etc. regardless of the "level" of the student.)

The other thing I am thinking of is vulnerability in terms of using my experiences (read mistakes) for the learning of others. I pay careful attention to what I see others do (or not do), especially when something goes wrong. I make a mental note of how I would work through it if I were to be faced with the same situation. For example, the fire in our school. There were many things our principal did right, but also many things that I would do differently, especially in terms of the follow through with the staff. As an instructor of future school leaders, I could use the mistakes I have made in my leadership to create learning situations for my students, but this would require real vulnerability on my part. Does highlighting our mistakes reduce the level of respect given by our students, or does it demonstrate the instructors ability to model humanness, dedication to improvement/learning, reflective thought, etc.? I prefer to think it is the latter.