I never thought I would be excited to have someone tell me I was unprofessional, but yesterday was one of those days. I was talking on the phone to one of my online students who was having technical problems. Once we got through the immediate problem, she shared with me how much she loves this class and said that in part it was because I was unprofessional. So in all honesty, I had to stop for a moment because I was trying to think about what I could have said or done that might have been viewed as unprofessional. For a moment, the parasite of fear began to poke its head out at me, but I caught it in time, rained love on it and myself, and did what I always tell others to do – seek clarification.
Being unprofessional to her meant I was real, authentic, and approachable. She knew she could call me, tell me what was going on, and I was going to work with her to brainstorm solutions and ideas on what could be done to resolve the situation at hand. What was humbling for me was that I learned that I had accomplished for her what I hope to do for all my students; I had created an environment where she wanted to learn and was doing more then the required reading so she could bring new stuff into the "classroom." Today, I learned a new layer to where this feeling came from as she shared in a paper how a teacher, who had been uncaring and unwilling to work with her during a time of illness, had discriminated against her.
If being caring, compassionate, loving, authentic and approachable is the new “unprofessional,” then this is something I am proud to be. At the same time, it saddens me that there are “professionals” who come across as uncaring, uncompassionate, and inauthentic. In my attempt to take my honesty to the next level, I can own there have been times in my teaching career that I have wondered if students were being honest when they would tell me this class changed their lives. What I came to realize is that my thinking they were not being honest was about me. When I learned to confront that parasite of self-doubt about my own teaching, I began to hear the voices of my students in a new way.
I have also learned that the more authentic I am with myself, the more authentic I am able to be with them. It is that authenticity that comes across in my interactions with them and it is sadly, what is so often missing in our interactions with so many in our lives. At the same time, it is hard to be authentic with each other, if we have not yet learned to be authentic with ourselves. Isn’t that what integrity is about? Finding that place of peace and wholeness, that space in your life where you love yourself for who you are, not for who others want you to be.