On a recent trip, I stopped by an airport shop to pick up a bottle of water.
“Will that be all?” When I nodded, the cashier announced my total and politely asked where I was headed.
“St. Louis.” My first time, I said and asked if he’d ever been. Too late. He’d already mechanically handed me my receipt and turned away, issuing a dismissive wish for a safe trip.
Nobody behind me in line, even in the whole store. “That was pretty fast!” I said, in a tone I hoped sounded lighthearted. I wasn’t angry, just surprised. I supposed if someone was going to ask a question, he might wait for the answer.
He glanced back, shrugged. “I guess I just get in sort of a rhythm, you know?” He seemed annoyed that I’d slowed him down.
Sure, this kind of thing happens all the time. People ask, “How’s it going?” but continue by without offering a chance to respond. While this may be fine with strangers and cashiers, it’s impossible to form good relationships through one-sided conversations. It’s crucial to take the time to stop and listen.
In the world of education, we call this Wait Time, which means we shouldn’t always call on the student whose hand is raised first. Because everyone has different learning styles and backgrounds, we should facilitate discussions and invite everyone to participate. Acknowledging the value of each individual’s contribution promotes growth, for both the individual and the whole.
For any kind of growth to take place — to say nothing of significant change — a basic level of comfort and trust needs to be established. One of my top goals as a teacher was to immediately establish a culture of caring with my students: I care about you, I’m listening and I’ll do everything I can to help you be successful.
On a broader scale, the same holds true. Superintendent Mark Edwards and his team at Mooresville North Carolina Graded School District planned steps to strengthen their culture while implementing a new technology initiative.
In Every Child, Every Day, Dr. Edwards emphasizes the importance of establishing this caring community from the beginning — it’s not a “one-to-one policy” in which shiny new laptops are dropped into the hands of students and teachers alike without any other changes or training. Instead, it’s a “digital conversion” and, notes Dr. Edwards, “I strongly believe that digital conversion cannot succeed without a pervasive culture of caring.”
And a culture of caring cannot exist without genuine conversation — asking questions and making time to listen and respond accordingly. This kind of thoughtful dialogue and well-timed reflection allows learning and growth to take place.
Consider the conversation in your district, and talk to your K12 Insight team. We’ll help to ensure that you’re listening, not just stuck in a rhythm of asking questions. We’ll make sure you’re offering enough Wait Time and inviting everyone to participate. Most importantly, we’ll support you in building the culture of caring that comes from engaging your entire community in your shared mission.