Written By: Hans Appel
Last week, in our school’s staff meeting, someone was brave enough to share that some teachers are afraid of saying the wrong thing, when met with a student who’s struggling. I think many teachers feel this way…
Which got me thinking about some recent conversations I’ve had with educators who are afraid to be innovative in their classrooms, afraid to contact parents, afraid to be vulnerable with students, or even afraid to challenge colleagues. I think FEAR really permeates our profession.
But having spent most of my career talking with people who are struggling, I want you all to know, most people aren’t actually looking for others to solve their problems, give them inspiring advice or put together the most eloquent words. Most people who are struggling are looking for authentic CONNECTION. Students want us to demonstrate:
I SEE YOU.
I HEAR YOU.
I LOVE YOU.
In the past couple weeks, I’ve witnessed educators at Wildcat Nation having meaningful connection through their words and actions all over the school:
*One person took all the sting out of a difficult conversation with a simple heartfelt apology.
*One person connected online through a temperature check to get a student help.
*One person moved mountains to ensure a student’s home life was safe.
*One person is reimagining their workspace to create a safe landing place for struggling kids.
*One person gave up their prep period to check in on a student they DON’T EVEN HAVE IN CLASS.
*One person removed their own ego to ensure a student’s needs were being met.
*One person demonstrated empathy for a family by helping them access a district program by eliminating systemic barriers.
Believe me people notice. RELATIONSHIPS MATTER!!
I even had a colleague reach out to me and express concern that I wasn’t acting like myself. The truth is, that person didn’t have all the perfect words and in the right order but their effort and love meant the world to me. And, in the end, they were able to help me see something I wasn’t ready or able to see. Our connection is now stronger than ever!
It really comes down to getting out of our own heads and leading with the HEART. I encourage you to side-step fear of saying or doing the wrong thing and just go all in on HUMAN CONNECTION…
Brene Brown says it best:
“Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
For more information check out this 3 minute video from Brene Brown on Empathy:
Also, check out Brene’s #DaringClassrooms web page for additional videos, posters, ideas, and inspiration on bringing vulnerable leadership and human connection to our schools.
About the Author
Hans Appel has worked as a counselor in the Richland School District for the past 19 years and at Enterprise Middle School since it opened. He’s passionate about school culture, servant leadership, and kindness. In 2018, EMS was awarded the ASCD Whole Child Award for the State of Washington and the Global “Class Act Award” for creating a culture of excellence through kindness, service, and empathy. Additionally, the were selected as a finalist in the 2019 PBIS Film Festival and took top prize in the Community, Parents, and Staff category.
Award Winning Culture was created by Hans and Jennifer Appel with the sole purpose of creating an educational mindset of Positive INTENTIONALITY and ACTION; with a daily mantra to make our sphere of influence stronger through Character, Excellence, and Community. Part of AWC's mission is to highlight outstanding educators, companies, and resources that support an Award Winning Culture. Both Jennifer and Hans work at Enterprise Middle School aka Wildcat Nation. Wildcat Nation received the 2018 ASCD Whole Child Award in Washington, for its award winning culture and the 2018 Global "Class Act Award" for Kindness.