Those of us who have been active participants in the world of education, actually, in the world in general, know that it is very rare, if not impossible to be able to please everyone. There is not a day that goes by that I do not hear a complaint of some sort; from my students, from my peers, from myself. It is draining, it fills the air with negativity and honestly, it does not accomplish much. It is an easy, easy trap to fall in to, and one that you can easily stay in without even noticing. If you stay in this trap, you can be blinded and become deaf. For you see, the trap will not allow you to see and listen to other concerns, other perspectives, other solutions.
Today my world of education shifted. Big time. The ripple effects of this shift have been eye-opening. It came with the perfect timing to have an enlightened discussion with my 5th graders about our current Social Issues unit. About how a social issue is a real-world problem, not just a complaint (i.e. recent increase in violence towards women). About how a social issue affects a large amount of humans (i.e mothers, daughters, wives, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, cousins, girlfriends, friends who lose their life and the fathers, sons, husbands, uncles, grandfathers, brothers, cousins, boyfriends, and friends they leave behind). About how a social issue is complicated to solve (i.e. laws have to change, proper support systems have to be put in place). About how a social issue is viewed through different perspectives (i.e. violence affects everyone, not just women). About how bringing awareness to a social issue can lead to another social issue (i.e. if you are a woman and don’t support this cause you are a weak, if you are a man and support this cause you are also weak). About how sometimes, it feels like a social issue is impossible to fix because we cannot please everyone (i.e. do we close school for the day? do we keep school open?).
Today my world shifted when I realized that young female students supporting the cause were disappointed at the mockery some of their own male peers had expressed. This mockery not only belittled the cause, but belittled anyone (female and male) supporting it. This mockery was a form of complaint. This mockery was unnecessary, uncalled for and hurtful. However, these young women did not get stuck in the trap of complaints, but instead responded with grace, staging a quiet protest in the cafeteria, writing a letter asking their male peers for a clear understanding of the issue. Asking for solidarity. Asking for respect. Isn’t that what we all want as humans? Male or Female? To be heard…to be understood…to be treated with dignity….to have our concerns treated with respect.
The most recent events of today show how crucial it is for the world of education to model to our young population how important it is to LISTEN, to LEARN and to VALUE others’ concerns. No matter what they are. LISTEN respectfully. LEARN about what they want to share. VALUE their concerns, even if you disagree. Complaining does not discriminate if you are male or female. Complaining will trap you in a dangerous place. A place where it is difficult to evolve. I want to believe, that if I am able to teach my young 11-year olds to LISTEN, LEARN and VALUE what others have to say, they will see that we are all humans, living in this one world, and that together we are much more powerful than apart. Together we can help each other out of any traps we may encounter.