Education is a sensitive field because we work with the hearts and minds of others each and every day. Most educators experience a large array of interactions and experiences throughout their tenure. Some of these experiences will be well within your areas of expertise and comfort, and other areas may make you very uncomfortable, sad, and even upset at times. It's important to have a good grasp of the way that particular issues make you feel, and to be ready for the deep sensitivity some issues will bring.
Recently, outside of the school year, I witnessed the kind of issue that makes me very sensitive during the school year. I watched a large family group play. One child was clearly the outsider in the group. I listened to the words spoken to that child, and the way the child was treated. While most of the actions and words toward the child were kind and encouraging from all the family members, I noticed that few really listened to what the child was saying as he repeated a number of needs again and again. I didn't blame the family as it's difficult to really hear the words of outsiders in a familial group, but as a teacher, I ached for that child as his needs were well founded and directed. What he clearly expressed again and again to his family members was a need that would help to make him a stronger, happier person. As I watched, I realized this is the kind of situation that calls to me. I really care that each and every member of my class feel like they belong and have what they need to succeed, and when issues of injustice and disregard occur, it hits a sensitive point in me.
On the other hand, I'm quite comfortable with the fact that as colleagues we bring to the school a large array of talents and challenges. At times, colleagues will confide that they feel bad that they essentially can't be all things to their students, colleagues, and leaders. They are very sensitive about the skills they don't have. It's easy for me in these situations to acknowledge a colleague's strengths and talents, and to assure them that none of us bring all the strengths to a school and that's why we're lucky to have the chance to work with so many who bring such a wonderful mix of talents to school. And, if we want to develop a skill or attribute that's challenging for us, there are many paths we can take to mastery including the path of working with the colleague who is a master at that trait. It's also easy for me to have this kind of conversation with students who may lament that a skill or attribute is challenging for them, while easy for another. I'm very comfortable with the fact that none of us have or know it all; we all have the ability to develop skill, and there's great strength when we work together.
To be cognizant of the areas where you are most sensitive will help you to teach and collaborate better. In situations of injustice, oversight, and exclusion, I am highly sensitive and need to recognize that for its strength and challenge. This is a strength because I generally do a good job helping all children become vital members of a class team, and I notice and build on specific strengths colleagues and students bring to school. This is also a challenge because I've had many a sleepless night due to perceived mistreatment, misunderstanding, or exclusion of others. I wake up wondering why this happens and what I can do to help.
Our sensitivity give us insight to important issues, and our sensitivities can also sometimes make our work very challenging and time consuming. Knowing well who we are; acknowledging and positively using our sensitivity for good work, and making sure that we have the time and support we need at sensitive times will help each of us as we aim to serve, coach, and teach all children well.