Thinking about What if we educators behaved like our ‘student ideal’? 60-60-60 #31 and reflecting…
I love the questions posed in Bo’s 31st post. His final question has me reflecting:
How would we empathize?
One of the more memorable professional experiences that I have engaged in at Trinity occurred when I was a sixth grade teacher. I was asked to find a sub for the full school day in order to spend seven hours walking as a child. I was encouraged to chose a class that was different than my own but one that would inform both my role in the school and aid in the development of the School’s Strategic Vision which centered around personalizing learning. As a result, I chose to walk as a fifth grader, from class-to-class, through lunch and recess, and all the way up to dismissal and carpool. It was an incredibly powerful experience on many, many levels. And one that I wish I had written reflectively about because now, four years later, I can only remember a fraction of this experience.
What I do remember is that my observations certainly informed my teaching and aided in the School’s Strategic Vision work, but what I see now is the effect that this experience – which was required of all community members – had on the building of empathetic relationships…adult-to-child and adult-to-adult. It was important for me to understand what it felt like to be a Trinity School student. And, it was also important for me to use a different lens as I examined the work of my colleagues. As I “walked as a child,” I gained a great deal of respect for the energy required to be both a student and a teacher at the school I thought I knew so well. It opened my eyes to the excellence in the faculty, to the resilience and energy in our students, and to the needs of the school as a whole.
So, if we are to model the ideal, if we are to begin to be the change we wish in others, I believe that there has to be a specific and strategic approach to building empathy…both individually and as an institution. Walking as a child did that for me and for our school. It served as the vehicle for greater empathy and, I hope, as a stepping stone toward the ideal.