Throughout the course of any given day, I have a number of interactions with students, teachers, parents, support staff members, administrators, and community stakeholders about achievement, performance, instructional techniques, strategies to serve students who struggle, events taking place in their lives, among many other topics. I love these conversations, as I am able to learn about great things taking place in our schools, struggles or areas where I can support, and often times thoughts or plans are generated about how we can become better. Some of these conversations are exciting, as teachers share how much their students are producing with the Lucy Calkins Writer's Workshop model of instruction. Other times the conversations are full of frustration, as people are struggling to meet a variety of needs and don't know what to do moving forward. Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out where the person is coming from within these interactions which forces me to look closer.
Every day is a challenge. Our lives are busy with work, family, community events, exercise (or lack thereof), financials, future plans, home and vehicle maintenance, etc, etc, etc. We are all busy people in 2015, and there doesn't seem to be enough time in the day to find the appropriate life fit. I am guilty of getting sucked up into the busyness of life and need to remind myself to slow down and focus on the task at hand. As I have conversations and interactions with a variety of people, I have come to realize a few key points of which I need to be reminded from time to time.
Everyone is dealing with something that we may know nothing about
What is behind the frustration? Who is causing the sadness? Why am I not connecting with this person? These are all valid questions that we need to continue to ask when working through challenging conversations in order to gather additional understanding. There is always more to the story. Maybe this teacher's sister is suffering from mental illness and having suicidal thoughts. The defiant student refusing to work may have slept three hours because his intoxicated mother continued to wake him up in the middle of the night. The angry parent on the phone shouting obscenities at you is overly stressed because rent is due and his account is empty. The paraprofessional that can't seem to find his way is going through a heated divorce that is consuming just about all of his emotional energy. These situations are all too real and I encourage everyone to look closer to glean additional understanding. I try so very hard to follow the advice of one of my heroes, the late Stephen Covey, and seek first to understand.
Sometimes it is about what is not said
Body language matters and we must pay close attention to our partners in conversation because their actions (and ours) speak a whole lot louder than words. Is someone really fine when you ask them how they are doing? Look closer to connect further and understand better.
Assume the best
Assumptions can get us into trouble, particularly when they are false. I have come to realize that when we treat all people as if they are good, we will be in a much better position. Am I wrong sometimes when I make this assumption? Yes, sometimes; however, nobody wakes up and says to themselves, " I think I'm going to be awful today." We do the best that we know how with the skills that we possess.
When we take the time to look closer, we will better understand our people, their circumstances, and what we can do to move forward together. We are in a people business and must never forget to take care of our most valuable resources.