Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Finding the big stick.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” Thinkexist.com


When I was in graduate school studying to be a School Psychologist, one of the best pieces of practical advice we received was this... Speak softly, but carry a big stick. Our professor prepared us for this. He said when we would be attending an IEP meeting with our clients all the experts gather around a table and each one gets to speak. You walk into your first meeting and as a 25 year-old- newly-graduated School Psychologist, you are the so-called "expert." You'll have more training and classroom education than most in the room. But what you will quickly discover, is that everyone else has more experience. They know the odds you face. They have many more years at stake. They've been there, done that. They've been living it, as you've been reading about it. And now, they are supposed to look to you for the answers. And you have to figure out how to make them listen.

Because you have the data and knowledge and skill to help them. Thats what all of this coursework has been about. Now you just have to figure out how to not talk down to them, to not condescend or make them tune you out. I suggest you do this instead.

Listen. To them. Observe. Admire what they do right. Remember you are all here for the same reason. And then when its your turn. Speak carefully. Speak only about what you know. Fall back on your training. Make practical recommendations. If you want them to implement your suggestions, they have to be able to do so. While most students will benefit from more instruction or time or practice, etc., what teacher truly has the time to implement such an idea? So instead, the suggestion to pair a student struggling with reading with the student who excels at reading is perhaps more easily carried out by the teacher with limited time to take on more. I remember thinking, Aha, this is the "big stick."

Our professor showed us over the course of his class, that by listening more, and learning the process ourselves, no matter what our age, we would earn the respect of others. This little tidbit has served me well time and time again, in all facets of life.

Including now. I want you to know I am listening. To all of you. Lately, everywhere I go someone is speaking to me. The sticks are swinging for the fences. I am in awe of how powerful and mighty some of them are becoming. It has occurred to me that perhaps I'd do well to just shut up and listen at times. Not because I don't have something to say, but because I do. I'm just still in the process of finding my big stick.

UPDATE: My friend Bonnie, who just happens to be a Sociology and U.S. History teacher at our local high school provided me with some context for the saying "Speak softly but carry a big stick." I thought I would share her words with you:

"Okay, here is a little history lesson from Mrs. Stafford.
Teddy Roosevelt said that statement in reference to becoming an imperialist nation. Much of Europe controlled colonies all over the world. He felt that to 'get ahead' in respect to becoming more powerful, we should "speak softly, but carry a big stick." In other words, quietly become powerful, grow our weapons, military, occupy territories, etc, so that the rest of the world would take notice and ultimately not want to be messed with. Building the Panama Canal was one thing we did. Unfortunately for him, the following two Presidents didn't agree with his sentiment. Then WWI took place which changed things. It wasn't until WWII that we became a 'super power.' "

I love having friends who know things! Thanks Mrs. Stafford!

11 comments:

  1. True listening is so difficult at times. Being present without distractions helps. I talk way too much and don't always think before speaking. Listening, truly listening would do me a lot of good. Vicky,you are my magnet. You have that 'force' that allows me to speak without judgement, listen to it all, and just be there. I thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Talk about powerful and mighty...that's the way I'd describe this post.
    For the love, don't stop writing...I need my Vicky~

    ReplyDelete
  3. I loved this... and I find you are someone I'm eager to listen to because there is always a thoughtfulness to what you say. You're like my E.F. Hutton (remember that commercial? ~ when E.F. Hutton talks, people listen)...

    I agree with Whimsy... it's easy to listen and trust you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Amy! I am so excited to see you here!!! And I am so touched by what you just said. I am also so happy to have found a friend who gives every bit as much to me if not more : ) Can't wait to see how your blog unfolds!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Robin and Sara, two of the biggest sticks I know! You both just keep leading and know I'm a student of your lessons. If you see anything in me, its just a BIG reflection of both of you, each in your own way.

    E.F. Hutton... that is hilarious!

    Robin, I was just putting my books on my visual shelf!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Interesting post Vicky! I teach my students about Teddy Roosevelt's famous line "speak softly but carry a big stick."
    Interestingly I think that those who speak the loudest are the ones who listen the least! By listening, I mean caring, etc. I can't ever post at work, but I am certainly reading your posts!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Bonnie, that is probably where that line came from! Thank you for giving me the reference. Its not as much fun without you here :) But I also know those high school students benefit so much from you.

    I saw the picture of Kate's class on tv and I saw Kate... too bad it wasn't more than that. I would have loved to hear her ask her question!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I didn't even get to see Kate! I heard it on their website though. That was an audio thing that was available.
    Okay, here is a little history lesson from Mrs. Stafford.
    Teddy Roosevelt said that statement in reference to becoming an imperialist nation. Much of Europe controlled colonies all over the world. He felt that to 'get ahead' in respect to becoming more powerful, we should "speak softly, but carry a big stick." In other words, quietly become powerful, grow our weapons, military, occupy territories, etc, so that the rest of the world would take notice and ultimately not want to be messed with. Building the Panama Canal was one thing we did. Unfortunately for him, the following two Presidents didn't agree with his sentiment. Then WWI took place which changed things. It wasn't until WWII that we became a 'super power.'

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am going to use that right now :) I love knowing where an idea or a saying comes from. I am so glad for the lesson!! Thank you for taking the time to write that!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Vicky I don't think you saw that I asked a question on an earlier post. Can those things be ordered from the gal who sent you that print? I love that and always am looking to add stuff to my house....

    ReplyDelete
  11. You're right I missed it. She may stop by here later and see this and reply. If not, she has an email on her site and if she is able she would respond!

    ReplyDelete

I welcome what you have to say. Thanks for taking the time to grace me with your thoughts and words!

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

Popular Posts

Minnesota.com

Minnesota.com - MN Weather, Map, Businesses and Blogs