Why We Care

She slouches on the vinyl chair next to mine, chewing her lip, twirling her hair. Wrinkles creasing her brow. And as she sits, I wonder.  Is she thinking of what to expect, even as she knows the reason for why we are here? Or is there more to the wonder than mere childlike speculation?

The reason for why we have left the house at such a crazy-early hour to drive for two hours was not, of course, to only sit and wait. We are here for other more pressing concerns. And yet, there is always the fear of the great unknown- especially for a child.

Not to mention of course the apprehension it brings the mother.

The doctor arrives with a bluster of energy and vigour. She immediately puts at ease what was formerly a worry. What was moments ago a source of stress, a source of concern, is now an afterthought in light of this physician’s delightful presence. She just seems to do this work so naturally- without a thought to the magic she has achieved. Weaving a tapestry of compassion through her laid-back banter, silly jokes and thoughtful concern. But then again: doesn’t care always have that gentle way of easing, of lessening the burden? And as the moments tick toward the hour we will spend in this tiny little room, I find my daughter relaxing. Find her unwinding, creased brow giving way to a smile. And all this because a doctor has chosen to spend this hour in this room with us, taking the time needed to care for the person, rather than merely just diagnosing the patient.

If a busy doctor, bound by the relentless expectations and constraints that often define this demanding profession, can make the time to show caring, compassionate concern, so might we do much of the same in the field of education.

It is not a matter of should- it is a matter of how.

How can we invest in the lives of our students in caring, compassionate ways even as the demands around us increase exponentially?

We can and we must, and one way I propose this can be done is through investing in care. That is, making it a priority to value the person that is the student- along with the tandem idea of valuing the people as a whole which comprise our classroom community. Through valuing and giving worth to the human beings that represent the education system in which they are found, we give credence to the humanity of the students. We recognize the person-hood of each boy and girl, man or woman who sit in front of us day after day. And this- all achieved by seeing though the test scores, records and data to the very real hearts and souls of the children and teenagers that we are called to teach. Taking the time to know the story of their lives instead of reducing them to a number and figure on paper. Taking the time to understand the context in which the students we learn alongside- live, work and play. For when this happens, we can fully care for our students in their learning, development and growth even while the system might appear to breath heavy down our necks. After all, if we sacrifice care on the altar of academic standards of excellence, haven’t we lost everything?

Standards mean little if the people that represent them are dehumanized.

A Lesson in Judging

Today.  I was reminded yet again.  For what stands to be the thousandth time.  (It is a lesson in progress.)  That I do not know everyone’s story.  Nor do I know all the reasons why or for what reason people do the things they do.  And neither can I know all the minute and significant details in a person’s life that cause them to act in certain ways.  To exhibit certain behaviors.   To say and do the things they do.

So why do I…why do WE think we have the right to judge.

Collectively, we as human beings form opinions based on what WE would do in certain situations.  “Since X is doing this, they must be feeling this.”  Or, “Since Y did this, it must mean that they don’t like that.”  We try to play God, getting inside each other’s heads.

Reading each other’s minds.  Figuring each other out by comparing other people to the standards we have set for acceptable and non-acceptable behaviors.  Standards we have set for ourselves.  Rightly or wrongly.

And in doing such- in judging one another,  we not only discredit ourselves.  We do a disservice to each other.  Because people are more complicated, more intricate than all that.  We are so much more than someone else’s opinion of us.  Someone else’s judgment.   Someone else’s standards or convictions or beliefs or attitudes toward us.  We are more.  So much more than all that.

And whether we be Child, or Woman, or Man.  We are worthy.   Worthy of being understood.  Of being listened to.  Of being given the benefit of the doubt.

And whether we be Blue Collar, White Collar or No Collar.   We are valuable.  We are feelings, mind and Soul.  We are story.

Stories worth being told.

And whether I think I know your story really well.  Got it all figured out.  Or whether I could just care less.  Believing what I wish.  It still stands that a person’s story is worthy.  It is significant.  It is their history.  Past, present and future waiting to unfurl.

A story of great consequence in the history of that solitary soul.   Valuable.  It is gold.  Because a person’s story is full of layers.  Dimensions.  Depth. There is so much more than meets the eye.  We must remember this.  All is not what meets the eye.

It never is.

Everybody’s got a story.  It’s how we respect the story- how we value the story.   That makes all the difference.