20th anniversary: Vulnerability sweet spots, Lines of questioning & The power of community
Thanks for being here
Hey everyone, hope you’re having a wonder-full week
Pink hockey sticks transport me to Ottawa.
My whole family—parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins—had made the trek from Montreal. We were sat in the bleachers of a cold, drafty hockey arena as a sign of support for my cousin—who was playing in the end of year final—when his teammates made their way onto the ice with a gesture of their own.
Each player had wrapped their stick in pink tape.
A tribute to my cousin’s mom.
I watched their team—and their opponents—do their warm ups through blurred vision, as I choked back tears.
But after they’d retreated to their locker rooms and reemerged for the big game, I couldn't help but cry.
The siren sounded, and as the opposing team came thundering onto the ice, I saw that every player had wrapped their stick in pink tape.
It was one of the most profound moments of my life. Both beautiful and sad.
Sad to know such pain resonated with so many—but beautiful to see how it connected them. United them.
Apparently, the opposing team had been curious why my cousin’s team had pink sticks, and someone had shared that my aunt had recently lost her battle with breast cancer.
Fast forward a few moments after the puck dropped, and my cousin was body-checked into a sideboard. No special treatment there (it’s a rough game and he was fine).
Thinking back, it’s one of the best metaphors for supporting people through life’s challenges.
Be empathetic. Show support. But treat them no differently than you’d want to be treated in their situation, so they can keep moving forward.
This applies as much to teaching and community building as it does life in general.
Now, here are three gems I want to share with you:
An experience to inspire: The vulnerability sweet spot
This video’s a no brainer. The minute I saw it, I felt compelled to share it.
When I thought about why, I realized it was the fusion of depth, authenticity, and vulnerability. There’s a rawness and clarity that lifts the fog of emotions, like a sunbeam shining through the rain.
If you’re short on time, skip to 15:45-20:23 to get the gist. As you’re watching, notice the interpretations you make.
The Ted Lasso scene brought me to tears—and I loved Nic’s interpretation of what it evoked in him:
"I burst into tears when Ted joined in to support Rebecca.
So I believe it revolves around the idea of not being alone.
That the support is there.
I just need to make myself vulnerable to receive it."
Vulnerability connects us with others on our deepest levels.
Not being vulnerable, can make us feel like we're wearing a mask. It also makes it harder for people to open up to us.
💞 Challenge: Consider how you can be more vulnerable in your teaching by sharing stories of how you’ve overcome struggles of your own. This is a great way to instill perseverance in your students.
A resource to consider: Question cheat sheet
Not all questions are equal.
Different scenarios call for different types.
It’s important to remember this when facilitating online. You want maximum engagement, while ensuring everyone has equal opportunity to share.
Here are 3 tips I learned from a recent training with expert facilitator, Gwyn Wansbrough:
Ask simple questions when people join.
Ex. As you’re settling in, go ahead and add the following in the chat:
✅ your name
✅ where you’re tuning in from
✅ one thing you’re looking forward to at the moment
These are questions students can answer reflexively without much thought. By giving them a low barrier to participate, students feel engaged from the start.
Ask open-ended questions to kickstart discussions, then drill down on ideas worth exploring.
Ex. How did you find that exercise?
[Someone responds “it was hard because X”]
Who else struggled with X?
This gives you a smooth route to the topic you want to discuss without having to go all Barney and say “ok everyone, now we’re going to talk about X”.
Ask follow-up questions to deepen the conversation and promote reflection.
Ex. Now that you know X makes it hard to do Y, what’s something you’ll do differently going forward?
We learn best by reflecting on what we’ve done. So ask follow-up questions to help students transfer what they’ve learned to new circumstances.
🙋🏻♀️ Challenge: How can you be more intentional about using questions to guide students through the experience you wish to give them?
A question to ponder: Being “that” person
This Ted Lasso scene is a masterclass in community building.
All it takes is one person.
To come forward. To speak up. To initiate a movement.
To show someone they’re not alone.
What on the surface may look like a “crazy guy in the back pew”, is a profound example of picking up someone hurting to a place of community.
💭 Questions: How can you be that person for someone you care about? What gesture could you make to show your support?
Cheers to the 20th anniversary of this newsletter
It’s been 20 weeks since I started writing this newsletter.
The discussions it’s prompted, the friendships it’s fostered, and the opportunities it’s brought my way are beyond what I could’ve imagined.
So thank you. I appreciate you.
🥳 If you have any feedback you’d like to share as to how I can make future editions better, hit reply and I’ll be glad to take it on board.
Have a wonder-full week,