Intentional listening, clarifying and responding | Mark’s Remarks


Almost on a weekly basis, educators have conversations with students relating to communication.  We are constantly talking to students about thinking before we speak, listening to directions, checking for understanding, and how we respond to others.

I have to say that, over the years, I’ve been impressed at how children who are 8, 9 and 10 years old can apply communication skills they learn. I’ve watched young children take turns talking. Recently, a couple of students who were in an altercation were able to listen to one another, ask questions of one another and carefully choose words when they responded to each other.

I have often wondered what life would be like if we could take lessons from our children. I’ve wondered how watching their innocence and sincere natures with one another would inspire us as adults to act in commendable ways. 

Recently, a community meeting was held to discuss students returning to in-person learning. During this meeting, there was time to address concerns of parents, students, teachers and community members.  

During such a meeting,  I am always thankful for maturity and professionalism. It is comforting to hear from people who take notes, listen to others’ opinions objectively and choose words carefully when they respond.

At this meeting, representatives from the educational community shared their opinions.  I was proud and very happy to hear from all of them. Did I agree with everything being said? No. However, I have great respect for the people who shared and am grateful to them.

One thing that was stated numerous times was that educators want things back to normal. Apparently, this statement was not heard by everyone, so I would like to say it again: teachers want their students back in the classroom. We want school to return to normal. We miss being able to have students sit side-by-side and work on projects or read to one another.  Many of us who teach younger kiddos miss the days when kids high-fived us and gave hugs. It’s been very hard to connect to our younger kids.

Teachers of older students feel the same way.  We want to watch our students play sports again. We are missing going to plays, concerts and activities. We are tired of seeing our students downtrodden and fatigued over the changes in learning that have occurred over this past year. It’s been pitiful.

It’s a dicey situation when a teacher speaks up in public. People assume you are speaking for the majority.  Many times, you can confidently say you feel you are speaking for most teachers. But sometimes, you can’t.

Confidently, I can tell you that teachers want kids back in school. I’ll bet almost every teacher would agree. Oh wait.  Did I already mention this?

Let me say again what was also stated in this meeting. We don’t all agree.  Things are different depending on  what age group we teach. Our lessons, our activities, and the way we arrange student seating is different.

But in the meeting, one teacher mentioned they felt confident that they were speaking for a large group of fellow teachers. They felt, as the majority did, teachers had concerns about safety.

For the most part, I believe people understood the comment. However, an individual  did not listen carefully and took it completely out of context. This was followed by a comment  from that individual about how it was sad that teachers didn’t want students back in the classroom.

I wanted someone to stand up and say “Huh?”

It was interesting to see and hear how many people, regardless of their opinion, thought the comment was unwarranted and unnecessary.  There were comments posted online. It was amazing to me how many people knew the original intent of the teacher’s statement.  

The response to said statement was based on a complete misinterpretation of the original statement.  This happens sometimes.  People misunderstand.

In a world where people value professionalism and fairness, it would be great to hear the people involved say “Oh, I misunderstood.”  

How nice would it be if we could all lay down our pride and be humble. How hard is it to apologize?

I misunderstood your comment. I apologize for the error in my rebuttal.

Let’s face it. This pandemic year has been the pits. Nothing has been the same, and despite the blessings we still have daily, there has been plenty of crap. Along with that, there have been people at odds with one another.

I am in hopes that we can use what we’ve learned this year to rise up. Can we do a better job? Can we listen to one another? Can we be objective? Before we let something come out of our mouth, can we think about what we are going to say?  If we make a mistake, can we just apologize? Can we be big enough people to see the greater good instead of our own personal agenda?

On a side note, I’d like to say one more thing: as community members, we need to pay attention to the representatives we choose.  We need educated, professional, objective people making decisions. We need to choose representatives who will listen, get all the facts, ask for clarification and be big enough folks to set aside differences of opinions.

We need people who aren’t driven by personal agendas. We need humble people who can admit when they are wrong. We need people who want to do the right thing for ALL parties involved.

And I say the most important “parties involved” are the students. I think I can speak for all of us with that statement.

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