The Paths We Travel
I walked into work with one of my colleagues, this morning. He was talking about the construction on his morning commute. He said there was a point on the highway that was down to one lane right before he got to work. While it was annoying, it wasn't anything that was going to ruin his day. "I guess it's a lot better than when I worked in Philadelphia," he said. I guess he used to travel the Walt Whitman Bridge every day. Not fun. I, myself, have lived in larger metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and Dallas, myself. So traffic in Central Pennsylvania, in essence, is nothing compared to that. He mentioned that traffic was even quieter 40 minutes out where he lived. I said, "You live 40 minutes away!" He told me where he lived and that the time spent commuting helped him unwind from his day. I was amazed. I never realized he lived so far away, and I thought about my narrow assumption that everyone lived a short drive away from Penn State---just like me.
I never would have known this about my colleague if I hadn't taken the time to say hi and walk and talk with him on our way into the office. It made me think about the students that we interact with daily. We really don't know what their experience is, what they are dealing with every day, especially if they are at a distance---our only interaction with them being online! Too often we make assumptions about who they are, what they do, what they think, how they feel. And then we are frustrated when they don't do work, miss deadlines, or complain about the learning environment. Did we take the time to actually connect with them and understand them?
Mindfulness is becoming a hot topic in education. We must be mindful of who are students are and how it is we are educating them. We need to stop and walk with them, talk with them, even look them in the eye, when we can. It's something we can all do in our day-to-day lives, as well as in our work lives. These acts of empathy will only help us craft more successful educational experiences for our learners.