They Did Listen

Sometimes as teachers we often think, did they really get it, are they even listening?

How can you convey struggle or hardship? How can we reach our students? How can we teach young people to have compassion and empathy for others as well as themselves?

I’m all for resiliency, I love the concept, but on the other hand I truly hate that word. It’s hard to promote or teach resiliency to young kids that already know the definition of the word firsthand because they live it every day.  

Last Friday we quickly discussed the impact Fiona could have on the region. We also discussed the impact that doing a good deed or lending a helping hand could have. Teaching empathy and compassion isn’t the easiest because some high school kids might not be able to fully relate because they never experienced adversity or hardship.

“Technology away, put everything away, close your computers and turn your cell phones over, eyes up here everyone, thank you.”

That’s what I say at the start of every class.

Even with their undivided attention and all the prompting, I often wonder are they really listening?

Today in class I got my answer.

After discussing not fully understanding a person or their situation and what some people may have experienced during the storm or just life in general, one student raised their hand.

“This might not have anything to do with this, but my next-door neighbour is an older woman, one of her trees split in half so my buddy I took and axe and cut half of it down for her and brought it over to our property, just then the neighbour from across the road asked for some help as well.”

“We removed some branches and stuff off the powerlines, it might be weird, but I heard your voice talking about what we did on Friday in the back of my mind while I was working on it.”

“Good for you, that’s awesome,” I said.

That student did listen.

How do you covey the importance of compassion and empathy?

I’m not the be all end all of teaching, never have been, never will be, but what I’ve learned over the years is that if you make “it” or whatever subject area you’re teaching relatable to real life people will gravitate to it, they will become more engaged and interested.

In an era where countless people say “they just need to suck it up” or “this generation doesn’t get it,” we need to remember that they are willing to learn, listen, show compassion and empathy for others, we just need to model and promote it. Sure, it might take some time, but they are more then willing because they are more resilient and caring than one might think. Students these days have experienced a lot in their lives more than people think and, in some cases, will ever know. For some students, just walking through the door is the epitome of resiliency and we should never ever forget that.  

Words and actions have impact, more than people know. They did listen and perhaps we need to listen and observe a little more as well.

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