Undoing Shame in the Adult Education Classroom

Hi Everyone,

I am a fan of Dr. Brene Brown's work. She came to fame after delivering a TED Talk on vulnerability that has over 60 million views. In an interview, Dr. Brown said, "Shame is still used as a primary classroom management tool. About 85 percent of the men and women we interviewed could remember something so shaming that happened to them in school that it forever changed how they thought of themselves as learners. And that’s staggering! But close to 90 percent of the people we interviewed could also name a specific teacher, administrator, or coach who instilled in them a sense of worthiness when they were struggling with that. I think this speaks to the power of coaches and teachers" (How to Listen to Pain, 2016). 

  • How do you help adult learners overcome the shame from their previous classroom experiences?
  • How does it look to be the instructor or administrator who instills a sense of worthiness in your students?

Thanks for your thoughts,

Steve Schmidt


Hello Steve! 

I think your point hits the mark, that negative experiences can be overcome by helping to create new, positive learning experiences for our adult learners. I think that being an ever-encouraging voice who is consistently in the student's corner can help dispel self-doubt that comes through shame. Hopefully this carries over to the student's daily routines outside of the classroom as well. 

PS: great meeting you last week in D.C.! Keep up the good work! :)