Years in education: 20+
Former K-12 teacher and principal, current History of Teaching as a Profession university professor
Q: What do you have in common with your students?
A: On the surface, one might assume I have very little in common with my students beyond trivial things like loving pizza, hot baths, and cute animals. I'm a cisgender white woman who grew up privileged.
However, I suffer from severe depression. This connects me to so many of my students today in ways that are deep and meaningful. Professors often hide their neuroses behind their credentials. I like to use this bully pulpit to daylight my reality - and the reality of so many others living with mental illness.
Q: Does it matter that students and teachers have things in common?
A: I've found that sharing vulnerability and pain is the most powerful (and honest) way to connect with my students. I don't come right out and share this information. Just like any other relationship, I want to make sure the time is right - or it comes up organically.
Once I share that I went into a deep, dark depression in my early 20s and that I was able to emerge from it thanks to therapy, medication, and some very ugly moments, something shifts in the classroom.
Students reach out to me for support all the time. I've counseled them on resources on campus, driven them to hospitals in a crisis and reassured them that they can live a full, happy, "successful" life while managing a mental illness.
Kimberly is a Professor at a research university. She is the author of Experience Inquiry: 5 Powerful Strategies, 50 Practical Experiences. She was formerly a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Senior Program Officer, Director with Teach For All, and school principal and K-12 teacher. Connect with her on Twitter @inquiryfive.
Photo (c) 2019 Kristin Leong
Humanizing the gaps separating teachers and students.