April (2014)
February (2014)
January (2014)
December (2013)
November (2013)
Valuing Work
October (2013)
September (2013)
May (2013)
April (2013)
March (2013)
February (2013)
January (2013)
November (2012)
Learning Styles
October (2012)
The Power of Empathy
I usually try to avoid writing this blog from a first person perspective, but today’s post calls for a few first person pronouns. As we complete the third week of academic classes and the fourth full week of the Fall Term, the honeymoon period has come to an end for some students. The rhythm of the academic year naturally brings about the first round of assessments this week, and as students refine study skills, sleep patterns and use of free time, stresses can build. I have noticed this in a few of my advisees, students in class and members of my soccer team.

Too often this week, I have found myself frustrated with the student who does not complete his or her homework, misses a meeting, or fails to follow through on a commitment as I expected. My response is rushed, egocentric and overemphasizes my priorities rather than our goals as students and teachers.

In mid-July I happened upon this blog post by John Spencer from Education Rethink. I bookmarked it, knowing I should reread it after the school year began and the busyness of academic and athletic schedules filled my life. Prior to grading a set of tests this evening, I paused to reflect on the message Spencer shared.

It is a message we, as faculty, must continually hear. One that will help us understand our students, their struggles, their successes, and how we can help them reach their potential. I encourage you to read the following words and to then put yourself in the place of a student. I know I needed to read these words tonight and hope they have a similar impact on you.

“See, I live in a world that plays to my strengths. As a dad, my knowledge of human development and relationships work well. As a teacher, my content knowledge and pedagogy plays well to someone with a relational/social/academic bent. I love to write and to draw and for that I'm doing surprisingly well in writing and illustrating a book for my kids.

“But sprinklers are different. Here, hands on literally means hands on. My hands are dirty. The pipes are stuck. It takes a certain level of hand-eye coordination and strength that doesn't come easily for me. I'm learning new vocabulary. Manifold this and male and female fittings (had no idea that pipes had gender assignments) and it's overwhelming.

“And that's why I do something like this at least once a year. I need to know, not just in theory, but in practice, what it means to struggle to learn. I need know the anger and the sadness and the shame and the way that it can cut to my identity (honestly, I've felt like less of a man because I'm screwing up on sprinklers), because this next year I'm going to have students who feel about reading and writing the way that I feel about pipes and sprinklers.

“Suddenly angry outbursts or giving up and saying, ‘I don't get it,’ makes a little more sense. I can forget that when I'm learning out of my strength. But it's much more memorable when I'm learning out of my weakness.”

Here’s to applying a little empathy in our lives and to taking a moment to remember what it’s like to learn out of your weakness.
After three weeks of classes, many students are thriving. However, for some, the realities of managing challenging academic courses, afternoon commitments and residential life cause stress.
The beauty of Proctor is that even though students may encounter stressful moments, support of advisors, dorm parents, learning specialists, and peers are ever present.
As adults, we must continue to remind ourselves that the stresses we face are not the same as those our students face.
Adults operate largely in a world that plays to their strengths. They have chosen their occupation because it is through which they have found some success. Despite immense breadth of curriculum, our students do not always have that luxury.
We all need to remember what it's like to operate from a place of weakness and to practice empathy with those around us.