“We also need to keep in mind that schools serve a need other than learning.”
If we truly believe this do our actions reflect this belief? Or like a bumper sticker, is this one of those mantras that we claim is important to us, yet always remains in the rear?
I do not know the answer to these questions, but I do know that in our attempt to make our schools a better place, we have become so focused on the what that we have begun to neglect the who.
And while the what is important, it should never take precedence over the who. We always keep our Standards and our Lesson Plans and our Technology and our Evaluation Tools and our Checklists within arm’s reach. But in so doing we leave no space to embrace something much more important: the people that we are trying to positively impact.
We have forgotten how to be close.
We have stopped leaning in. Figuratively and literally.
And in our effort to better connect, we are not connecting.
We can communicate with our students via Skype, Google Hangouts, Voxer, etc. But when we interact with students are we doing so in a way that brings us closer together or farther apart? When we sit down with students are we sitting next to them, close to them, with them? Or are we behind our desk taking notes and checking our email? Are we holding their hands, giving them hugs and providing them the closeness they need? Or are we pushing them away with our talk of grades and tests scores and report cards?
Are most of our interactions with staff about instruction and data and teaching? Or are they about family and friends and life? Do we actually take the time to sit down and talk, or more importantly, listen? One minute of undivided attention is more valuable than five pages of feedback. We can spend hours crafting evaluations that we think will have enormous impact. But if we haven’t first established the connection with that person, then our words will not have the resonance we intended.
When we meet with parents are we telling them about their child or are we trying to learn more about their child? Do we make them feel welcome and comfortable or do we use jargon and sit in judgment? Parents can sense within thirty seconds what we are all about.
Do we keep our distance because we are afraid? Do we pack the room in an attempt to help us feel safer? Or do we sit face to face in a close setting and truly listen? If we truly want to build the relationship and the trust, then we must get closer. And this is not easy. And this can be uncomfortable. But it works! We must always remember that if a parent does not trust us then neither does their child.
We must not ever forget that school is what we do, but it is not who we are. In our attempt to better connect we have forgotten how to connect. These connections don’t require a budget and they don’t require a plan. We don’t need to assemble a committee and there is no need to collect any data.
There is one and only one way that we can start to make these connections that are so crucial.
We must start to lean in.
My thoughts above were inspired by Peter DeWitt’s piece Reimagining Schools: What Does That Mean? that was posted yesterday on Finding Common Ground. Sometimes I think that I am only replanting seeds that have already been fertilized by my PLN. But that is okay because I believe we learn and grow and stretch together.