Sometimes our eyes and experiences deceive us. In fact, if our own frame of reference is the only compass we carry we may miss the very things our students are counting on us to see.
Consider the picture I've attached to this blog post. I know there's a lot happening, but try to focus on finding the three things you think the student values most based on what you're seeing in their room. (I'll circle back to this soon, but want to switch gears for a second.)
I was recently having a conversation with a good friend and fellow educator when I had a powerful aha-moment. We happened to be talking about moving beyond book reports and reading logs, but we could have been talking about anything and this story could still be helpful.
Anyway, my aha-moment came when my friend pointed something out to me that I didn't think I needed to hear. I mean honestly, it was like she was reminding me of a core belief I thought I had down pat. It reminded me of when I was a kid my mom would remind me to brush my teeth...after I had already brushed them. Does that make sense?
Only in this instance, I actually needed the reminding. My friend was pointing something really important out that she noticed I may have been missing. And I was really grateful.
Whether she realized it or not, she helped me see that I had a blind spot when it came to the topic, or at the very least, I had lost focus on what matters most and failed to communicate that effectively.
This can happen to all of us. In fact, it does happen to all of us which is why it's so important for leaders to listen. Listening enhances vision more than a mission statement ever will. The conversations we have with people who care enough to speak truth into situations can catapult our understanding forward like few other things.
I wrote about this in my book, Reclaiming Our Calling, where there's a chapter on things falling off our radars and another chapter on blind spots. Whether we're talking about reading logs, student voice, or planning on how to reopen schools, this quote from the book still speaks to me..."We don't see opportunities because they're there. We see them because we're looking for them."
And sometimes it takes a friend, colleague, or student to help us see, right?!
I want to circle back to that hidden picture from the beginning of this blog post. What three things did you notice that helped clue you in on what might matter most to the student based upon their bedroom desk?
In responding to this question, I'm guessing many people will study the awards, tangible evidence, and other things that are prominently displayed. (Kind of like what catches our attention in school, maybe?) But what if the thing that matters most to this student is their family and they're away from their desk assisting a relative who is in need? Or perhaps they're participating in a Youth Event at church instead of sitting in their room caring for a bird who is in more trouble than it realizes.
I'm probably just whispering in my own ear right now, but my point is sometimes we need to look past the obvious and all the things we're accustomed to looking for. Meaningful change will require each of us to sharpen our radar, and this is not something we can do in a vacuum.
Rely on conversation to sharpen your lens.
Embrace pushback as an opportunity to grow.
Push past obvious assumptions to understand situations better.
It's often the things we don't see (yet) that could benefit from our attention the most. But there are usually people who do see those things. The only question is, have you invested in a culture that empowers others to share, are you asking the right questions, and do others trust you enough to have that conversation?
If this blog post resonated, you might like my newest book, Reclaiming Our Calling: Hold on to the Heart, Mind, and Hope of Education. The book tackles a tension many educators are feeling using a combination of stories and practical strategies. If you’re interested in technology integration, Renegade Leadership: Creating Innovative Schools for Digital-Age Students is a best-seller with Corwin Press. Both books are built on the belief that everything we do in education starts with relationships and connectedness.