“It sounds like you’re wanting to find a way to balance everything,” I said to one of my students yesterday during a lunch bunch. He recently moved, misses his friends, is attending school in our hybrid learning model, wants to spend lots of time playing video games, and also wants to be able to spend time with his family. I wanted to help him.
“Mhmmmm.” He responded.
Backstory: My team and I are taking an Empathy Course right now for Professional Development hours. At first, we joked about having to go to “Empathy School” on a Saturday. We thought we had it all covered. Long story short, our Saturday workshop ended with a few of my teammates in tears of release. We’ve all been through a lot this year and what we practiced during this workshop, empathy, left us feeling like we were heard. Truly heard.
It also left us reflecting on practicing our newly learned definition of empathy with students and each other. Additionally, we thought about ways which we could infuse our new learning into our classroom communities – where empathy stands as one of our core values.
One of my big takeaways from this workshop was thinking through several identified “Empathy Blockers.” My most identified empathy blocker? Problem- Solver. I am sure to anyone reading this, that probably isn’t much of a surprise. As teachers, we jump in and fix everything.
You’re thirsty? Okay, grab a drink of water.
Your head hurts? Go see Nurse B.
The math problem is hard? Okay, let’s work on it together.
You forgot your book bag? Let’s think about what we can do to remember it for next time.
Something happened with a friend at recess? Okay, let’s talk through it together.
You can’t hear us on Zoom? Okay, try quitting Zoom and rejoining. You can’t find your folder? Have you checked your backpack?
All of these problems were quite honestly probably solved within the course of ten minutes. We’re problem solvers. It’s within us.
Back to A and our lunch bunch. I wanted to help him. I thought about helping him create his own to-do lists or personal schedule to help him fit everything in that he wanted to. 🛑 Blocker Alert: Problem-Solver. There it was again.
I listened. I practiced the technique we learned, mirroring, as I tried to echo the thoughts he shared with me.
“Did that help you feel any better, A?” I asked as our time was nearing the end.
“Kinda. I feel like you know exactly how I’m feeling,” A shared.
“I understand and we’ll figu-,” I stopped myself from offering to problem solve. I revised.
“Yes, I’m always here to listen,” I shared.
I wanted to help him. I needed to listen.