Dear Eleanor and Wesley,
In my job there are times when people do not like me very much. Many times. I’m almost never someone’s favorite person to see. I’ve learned not to take it personally. I’m kinda like the dentist. No one is over-joyed to go to the dentist. You go to the dentist because you have to and you just hope to get out without things going too terribly. Teachers seem to have that same feeling about me, because right now I’m an evaluator. I meet with a teacher before a lesson, observe the lesson, and then sit with them afterwards to talk through their formal results.
The other day I was preparing to meet with a teacher who had a tough lesson. She has been giving it her all for many years, and this year in particular has clearly worn her down. I had the task of discussing the results of a lesson gone off the rails with this frustrated teacher and picking up the pieces. She made it abundantly clear that she did not like my rubric and was not particularly fond of me. But I had a job to do.
How could I get this lady, likely 30 years my elder, to answer my questions and go through my process? I know strategies. I could have coaxed and cajoled and cognitively coached my way through each of the steps. I could have relied on the process. But I made a mistake.
I sat across the table and looked at her. In that moment, I saw past the lists of proficiencies and perscribed avenues of reflection. I saw a person. Resignation and defeat seemed a physical weight upon her shoulders. She was looking for a way to get this red-taped,bureaucratic burden behind her so that she could figure out how to make tomorrow a little bit better. She was looking for help. She was looking for hope.
Seeing this person in front of me for where she was in the moment was incredibly inconvenient. Percieving the humanity in others usually is. People are unpredictable, idiosyncratic, and remarkably flawed. All of us. It is much easier to see only the parts of others that we can handle, and ignore the rest. The parts that are pleasant, attractive, and convenient. The problem is that there is no way to really love someone based on a shiny exterior. Real love only comes through seeing the truth about someone and choosing to love them through it.
Dragging this poor soul through a conversation she dreaded was not what she needed. Instead, I did something I’ve never done. I told her I didn’t want to talk about the lesson. I just wanted to help her. Right then an amazing thing happened. She relaxed and pulled down her guard a bit. We started talk and in the end chatted a great deal about the lesson, hitting all of the key points. She left feeling supported and ready to take action. I left astonished about the thirty minutes we shared. Do not underestimate what a bit a humanity can do.