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The Problem of Authenticity

A lot of engagement in social media circles is the idea of "authenticity." We talk about "authentic" professional development, or "authentic" classroom engagement.

We have to recognize authenticity is deeply connected with privilege. As a white, cisgender, heterosexual, male, with six daughters, I have a lot more freedom and support to be authentic online. I won't likely be fired for being authentic in those identities. However, there are friends and colleagues that live in certain states where they can be fired for being their authentic selves.

To me, encouraging authenticity has to being with listening, validating and engaging with compassion are the beginning steps towards true authenticity. Arguing over someone's lived experiences seems like a good way to shut down authentic engagement in others.

In the classroom, it is more about which learners I am centering in my pedagogy. How do I work to center students who are not normally the focus? How do I align my praxis with learners who may not align with my own paradigms and style. Adapting to the students instead of asking them to adapt to me seems like a good way to encourage authenticity.

When I don't connect with someone (a colleague, a friend, a student) where does my cognitive dissonance take me? Does my brain want me to write that person off, or does my brain assume I need to do something different or make a change that will open up connection? I will confess; it is a fight internally to push towards the latter. My brain naturally wants to assume I am in the right here.

What are your thoughts?