“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!
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