In Praise of the Vulnerable: A Poetic and Autobiographical Response to Salvio's Abundant Sexton

  • Celeste Snowber
  • Sean Wiebe


Much public dialogue around pedagogy is now propelled by a dwindling number of best practices, a kind of corporate gate-keeping which insures an ongoing instrumental quality to classroom teaching. By contrast, and to contest such educational tsuris, our voices offer a poetics of understanding one's own pedagogies, and those of others, through a multiplicity and complexity of ways of being in the world.

By shifting attention to the multiplicity, we have come in differing and always complicated ways to our readings and subsequent conversations of Anne Sexton’s pedagogy, which Paulio Salvio (2007) represents favorably as having potential for questioning the strictures we as teachers hold about keeping our personal lives outside the door of the classroom. Our reflections have become more vulnerable, more fluid, teasing out the tensions of what we have lived everyday as teachers and how we have woven the everyday into our practice. By becoming publicly aware of how much our personal lives are already inside the classroom door, we imagine and write through our pedagogical assumptions and break some of the defined codes which make teaching strictly a professional engagement.

Like Sexton, we have found that honest reflection about teaching has been generally unwelcome. Not retreating to the security of our public roles (that of academic and artist, poet and dancer, parent and educator), our voices live in the warp and weft, finding indirectly those in-between places and spaces of being from which we can profess a gathered experience of educational practice. While difficult, because we continue—and insist on—living out a poetry from the many threads of our lives, our pedagogy has become embedded in the poetics of our wor(l)ds. And we continue because our pedagogy is about connection and teaching with vitality, rather than obsessing over how we are meeting the accountability goals of the latest educational reform. More importantly, woven within this public professing are our inner confessings, as they are understood in relations of difference, and we respond to both Salvio's words and Sexton's work through poetry, which after all is a deep love for all involved in this project of breaking open to new hues.