Driving home a few weeks back I came to the corner of Manheim and Roosevelt in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. I was in the right-hand turning lane, one car back and the light was red. While waiting for the light to turn green or the car in front of me to turn right, the man in the car suddenly opened his door and got out.
The man proceeded to walk about ten feet in front of his car. I noticed him bend over to grab something. He walked back to his car and had what appeared to be a giant metal spike in his hand. (The kind that is used for heavy construction work.)
The man wasn't dressed in construction clothes along with his car displaying an out-of-state plate. Therefore, I assume this man was simply "paying it forward." At first, I was a bit impatient because this man was not turning right but chose to use the right hand turning lane. However, after learning why this man wasn't immediately turning he forced me to reflect.
This man reminded me the critical importance of being cognitive for those around you even if they are complete strangers. That spike very well may have punctured a hole in one of my tires or another car passing by. The empathy of the man to think of others and proactively take action was simply exceptional.
While finishing my drive home, I couldn't help but continue to reflect on this man's actions and connecting them to the state of education. How may we better practice empathy with our students? How may we be more cognitive toward our student needs ensuring we meet them with where he/she are at on his/her academic journey?
One action we may begin taking is providing our students with the instructional approach, which maximizes each student's learning preference.
Nonetheless, it is our responsibility to ensure each student has ownership of how they learn. It would have been very easy for the man to remain in his car and not pick-up the spike. It would be very easy for us to teach the same way to students. However, we know each student learns differently and so we teach differently.
Similar to students, perhaps some teachers thrive more in an online environment compared to a face to face environment. We need to be empathetic to the needs of our teachers similar to the needs of our students. Teachers should have opportunities to maximize his/her skill sets in their preferred instructional environment.
Thank-you to the man for reminding me to be cognitive of my surroundings. Thank-you to the man for reminding me to take actions which might not always be easy but will bring value to others.
In closing, the three districts part of the Expanding Learning Opportunities Consortium (eLo) are taking more steps to be empathetic to the needs of their students. Whether authentic project-based learning activities in the classroom, blended learning programs, or virtual learning opportunities through eLo, each district is putting more students in the driver's seat. In addition, by training teachers to learn how to blend instruction, lead an online class, or have more options for the environment they teach, they are in turn raising the level of expectation for students.
There is no time to rest and plenty of more work to do. We must continually reflect and provide our students more opportunities to learn based on their unique DNA. We must be more empathetic like the man making self-less decisions for the good of the cause. We must continually work together to ensure we aren't putting unnecessary layers of obstacles, such as these spikes, in the way of our student learning. We must continue to remove the obstacles and let our students take control over their learning in whichever environment that might be.
For more information about the Expanding Learning Opportunities Consortium (eLo), consider checking out our website. www.eloconsortium.org.