by Mary Howard
This year, our #G2Great team added a new feature to our weekly twitter chat calendar. Since our first chat nearly seven years ago on January 8, 2015, we have had 353 chats and counting. We recognized that many chats need to be shared again so that we can view it from a new perspective and introduce it to those who didn’t see it the first time. We modify the questions in each Blast from the Past chat in order to contemplate a topic or book with fresh eyes that will invite a fresh discussion to inspire new thinking.
This week, we held our third Blast from the Past chat by looking back to 7/16/15 in a chat with Kimberly Davis: BRAVE. This was before we even launched our blog post so it gave us a renewed look at a topic without a written reflection to accompany it. We met our now dear friend Kimberly Davis through a shared friend, Dani Burtsfield, who told us about Kimberly’s TEDxSMUWomen talk: What It Means to Be Brave. I fell in love with this remarkable 14-minute talk the first time I saw it and I still watch it again when I need a ‘BRAVE boost’. I highly recommend it to those of you who haven’t had the pleasure to see it yet.
Early in her talk, Kimberly poses a question to the audience she later discusses:
“How can any of us be our best real selves powerfully, (what I call brave), if we’re feeling afraid or vulnerable or anxious or stressed or overwhelmed? How can we be our best selves in the face of our inescapable humanity?”
As I reflect on BRAVE, other words come to mind from Webster’s dictionary:
Kimberly lives in the business world rather than in education but the wonderful thing I discovered years ago by exploring a world previously foreign to me is that there’s a lovely intersection where our two worlds collide into glorious harmony. I can’t think of anything more important than BRAVE for educators right now. At this very moment, our teachers are entering a new school year in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. Through no fault of their own, the now find themselves face-to-face with ill-conceived mandates that are running rampant and people making these decisions have little if any educational background. Following mandates devoid of research basis can do great harm to our children and the teachers who are committed to them. Our teachers’ BRAVE is being challenged, stifled and ultimately erased. Schools don’t want teachers to have a voice and make decisions that would honor their children; instead elevating publishers and others with an agenda who waste our time and money with lies, half truths and total disregard for anything that falls outside of narrow views often grounded in opinion rather than substantiated reality. Educators who bring a vast body of research supported knowledge that could fuel their BRAVE, are being told in countless ways that their deepest beliefs about teaching and learning and years of extensive knowledge is of little value. Professional agency and respect is at an all-time low as scripts, packages, tests and very bad advice is at an all-time high. BRAVE is even more important when we find ourselves standing in front of a roadblock everywhere we turn.
Somehow, we need to rediscover the BRAVE that has been buried under the debris of nonsense. In the face of insanity, it could bring sanity and allow us to carry our BRAVE each day we enter our building, and into the teaching spaces where inspired work with children happens when teachers are unfettered of the dictates that block the way forward.
In this tweet with Kimberly Davis from our original chat, we talked about where to begin:
In other words, being BRAVE not only respects small increments of BRAVE – it openly invites them. You don’t have to climb Mt Everest or jump out of an airplane to be BRAVE. You just need to show up and start where you are at that moment and as Kimberly reminds us… “one situation at a time.”
In the Netflix special, Call to Courage, Brene Brown said,
“The key to whole-hearted living is vulnerability. You measure courage by how vulnerable you are. Today I will choose courage over comfort. I can’t make any promises for tomorrow, but today I will choose to be brave.”
Someday it feels as if our BRAVE is being confiscated, chipped away piece by piece until it’s a mere shadow of its former self. Is Covid 19 and the last two years of uncertainty a culprit? There’s no question that it was a factor. And yet, teachers did what they have always done so many people would be able to bear the weight of uncertainty, loss and sadness. They demonstrated superhuman resolve to rise above that uncertainty, loss, and sadness by showing a BRAVE the likes of which we have never seen before.
BRAVE does not need to be big and bold to garner that title. There are many shapes and sizes of BRAVE, ranging from a reluctant “I’m not there yet but I’m giving bits of BRAVE at a time” to “I’ll shout it from the roof top BRAVE”. It all counts. For some, it can be a matter of showing up even when your heart is breaking or you can barely put one foot in front of the other. During this pandemic, teachers showed their BRAVE when our educational landscape went from Zoom-less to Zoom culture.
There is the BRAVE that teachers lived and breathed pre pandemic and the BRAVE that they continue to embrace every day when they are being told to do things they know is not in their students’ best interest. There are BRAVE robbers that have long existed in education with a barrage of attacks on teachers being told they’re not good enough because they aren’t doing what those people tell them they should. There are one-size fits all BRAVE robbers who want to standardize every aspect of education. Some days, empowerment feels out of the reach. And yet our teachers come to school every day, walk through the door with a smile even when their heart is breaking and do the right thing for children because that’s what they signed up to do. And that my friends is the heart and soul of what it means to be BRAVE.
I’d like to close this post with a personal reflection on one of the many forms that BRAVE can take in our lives. There is a close connection between personal and professional BRAVE and one influences and fuels the other. In March 2020 a pandemic presented us with never before experienced challenges. It was an extreme wake-up call on so many different levels. For thirty years of my life, I had a long-time dream of moving to Honolulu. This dream amplified across the pandemic and yet, there were so many voices in my head telling me that it was impossible: Will I be okay without family or friends? Can I still travel from Hawaii professionally? What if I get sick? What if I need help? What if I don’t like being alone? Will I be able to find doctors? Can I manage without a car? Where will I live? Is it selfish to do this? All of these questions hung in the air like a dark cloud as I contemplated this move. Then one day I was watching a TV show called “The Big Leap” when the words that nudged me to make a decision rose from my TV screen. One of the stars of the show was giving advice to a woman starting over after a divorce:
Isn’t it more exciting not to know how the story ends?
Minutes later, I sat at my computer booking for an AirBnB. So many fears plagued me in those early days but then I thought about professional choices I’ve made across the years that required bringing my BRAVE to the surface. I couldn’t help but wonder why this was any different. I sold everything I owned, said goodbye to my brothers, nieces and nephews and on February 17, 2022, I boarded a plane to Honolulu. I had no idea what the future held but I was certain that I could figure it out in the place I’d loved for thirty years. I’ve now lived here for 191 days and counting – and I’ve never been happier. Have all of the worries that plagued me early on disappeared? No. But I’m living my dream in paradise, and I’ll figure the rest out out along the way without looking back.
You don’t have to move halfway across the country to be BRAVE. Once we understand what BRAVE means and looks like personally, we can draw from that professionally. BRAVE is different for all of us. Maybe it means it means moving to a new school, speaking up, standing up, fighting for what we believe or even choosing a new professional direction when the nonsense is simply too massive to ignore. BRAVE can come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, options, and perspectives. Nothing is too small.
You can read more about my journey on the blog that I’ve been keeping every day since I first arrived in Hawaii: THE BIG LEAP (Day 1: 2/17/22)
One of my favorite songs that illustrates this topic is If I Were Brave by Jana Stanfield. At the bottom of the video, several people shared their own brave. I smiled today because I’d never noticed one before that now has real meaning:
Bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii 28 years ago. LIFE is a one-way ticket… DANCE. Kay Lynn Satler
I’d like to close with the words of Kimberly Davis in a quote we shared during the chat and then a few of her tweets from our #G2Great chat.
What It Means to Be Brave: Kimberly Davis TEDxSMUWomen