The definition of shame we used comes directly from this book:
Most people that I know think of being ashamed when we talk of shame. Being ashamed is what occurs when you feel guilt or remorse for something that you have done that may have caused hurt or discomfort in others. Shame on its own, however, can be anything that disrupts your positive affect.
An example of this might be that a student was yelled at by his/her parent before they got to school or was greeted rudely by a school figure or another student before going to class. That shame will absolutely follow him or her into the classroom. They might be so immersed in their shame that they actually lash out at others because they do not know how to process the shame they are feeling. They have nothing to feel guilty for; they have not necessarily done something wrong. They have simply had their affect disrupted by someone else and have not had the opportunity to process it.
I have thought quite a bit about this topic since leading the Twitter chat on it. We do the Twitter chat on Sundays and then work through the same questions in slow chat form in our Voxer group throughout the week. This allows us to dig deeper into whatever our topic is and not be constrained to 280 characters.
I have to be real; one reason it has been on my mind so much is not just the rich and amazing discussion we had surrounding this topic, but some things I have witnessed/overheard that I think bring shame to students. I am by no means a perfect person. Believe me when I tell you that things have left my lips, directed at students, that were beyond inappropriate and wrong. Most of the time, these things occurred when I was a younger teacher who felt overwhelmed and/or frustrated and I didn't necessarily know any better. It doesn't excuse the behavior of course because regardless, I am an adult and as someone tasked with working with today's youth, it is part of my job to be mindful of the things that leave my lips. Unfortunately knowing that and following through on that are not always mutually exclusive.
My school building houses two schools: a Pre-K through 5th grade building downstairs and a 6-8th grade middle school upstairs. We do share some common spaces. My classroom this year is in our common hallway. I asked for this room because a) it is huge and b) it has windows that face a courtyard which means natural light. What I was not prepared for, however, was how often my path would cross with the middle schoolers and their staff. This particular hallway is home to both cafeterias, their band room and the shared art space. There is a stairwell right outside my room that the secondary students use to get to and from the cafeteria and their band/music classes.
I didn't expect to overhear the sorts of things I overhear. Last week I overheard an adult tell two students to shut up. I was taken aback. Big time. Keep in mind that I have zero context as to what this adult's relationship was/is to these students. I also do not know these students. I overheard this through the door of my room. I was quite shocked and upset to overhear this.
I think it bothered me so much because of the discussion I had been immersed in with my Voxer group surrounding shame. All I could think was that these children were now going to carry shame with them to their first period class and quite possibly through the rest of the day after that exchange (which was overheard by a hallway of their peers as well). How would this interaction affect the rest of their day? How would it affect the other adults and teachers that they would interact with for the next seven hours?
More than a week later, it still sits on my mind. As a mother, I would be furious if my child told me an adult who was charged with caring for them in school spoke to them that way. On the other hand, I'm a teacher in an inner city district where sometimes kids drive you to the brink and you, as the adult who does (or at least should) know better, you allow your emotions to get the better of you and you say or do things that cross a line. I hope that is the case for this situation. I pray that the adult in this situation found time during the day to approach these students and apologize or at least in some other way show these students that her actions were uncalled for and that she owned it.
I think it is vastly important that we own our actions as adults too. No one is perfect. I have worked with many people in my career and some of them have accused me of thinking I'm perfect or better than others. I don't, actually. I know I mess up, I know I make mistakes. I think the difference for me is that I own that; I fully acknowledge that I do not know everything and that I still need someone to call me out on my actions at times. In the end, I think that is what this came down to for me. I would want someone else to call me to task if they overheard me speak to a child or multiple students in that way. Because regardless of my motivations or what had happened to me earlier in the day that set me on edge or my previous interactions with those students, we need to conduct ourselves in a way that allows students to see us as their ally not their enemy.