It Starts with Listening #fergusonI want to say thanks to my friend Chris Lehmann for pushing me to write this post. I don't often write about social issues, even though I have opinions, and I certainly have a voice. I guess it's just my own fear about how my voice will be received and probably about my own personal doubts that usually keep me from writing about social issues.
Another reason I think I shy away from social issues is because it's impossible for me to separate how I feel about social issues without including my religious views. I'm not ashamed about what I believe and I certainly make no apologies for my faith. I feel there is a time and place to share those views and I don't often bring those views to my blog.
However, last night after teaching my middle school class at my church and reading blog post from my friends on the topic of #ferguson, I found a point of intersection.
It's this idea that everything starts with our ability to hear. Of all of my senses, I think losing my hearing would be the worse to lose. I had this discussion with my class last night. Why do deaf people struggle with speaking? There's nothing wrong with their mouth or vocal chords. It's because they can't hear.
The same is true as you grow into adulthood. How can you truly speak on a situation if at first you don't listen? Check out this tweet from my good friend Bob Dillon.
A4: I want to grow in listening. The more I know unveils to me the less that I really know. #moedchat #fergusonI can't say for certain I know how this is all going to end. I do, however, have a suggestion with how this all should begin. It has to start with people learning how to listen.
— Bob Dillon (@ideaguy42) August 15, 2014
When having these hard discussions with your students, start by listening to their hopes and fears. Start by listening to the voices from both sides of the situation before forming an opinion. Of course, I don't always get why there are even two sides to begin with but that's just me.
Move beyond speaking for just a moment. Think about how our ability to hear gives us direction. When the room is dark and you can't see your hand in front of your face, you stop and listen for a sound that tells you which way to turn. How can you truly know which way to turn and have direction if at first you don't listen? Play a little Marco Polo and you'll know that many times which way we turn starts with our ability to listen.
I finish with a personal story.
Most of my Saturdays I go to Beecher Terrace in Louisville, KY. It seems like each week there are violent crimes in that neighborhood. It breaks my heart as my wife, three children, and I walk through the apartment complex inviting people to church. It would be easy to spend all day there because the people who are there will talk your leg off. Probably because they aren't use to people actually listening to them and their needs.
It's not uncommon to have somebody thank me for being there. Sometimes it's just in word but I have been hugged a time or two. I've been warned by the guys on the corner when I walk up to them that I'm risking getting arrested if I'm seen with them but I stand there for a minute anyway. I just listen to what they have to say.
I'm not tooting my own horn here or bragging about my involvement because I fall short every week. I'm not making near the difference that I want to make. I'm not changing near enough lives and too many people are waking up to the same bleak reality the fell asleep to the night before.
If you don't think you have a neighborhood in your city like Beecher Terrace or you don't have kids in your schools that fear a situation like the one with Mike Brown will happen to them, then you are kidding yourself and you're not listening.
So I invite you to listen. Listen to your students, listen to your families, listen to the voices of great educators who wrote far more powerful pieces than this one.
Learning starts with listening. Change starts with listening. Hope starts with listening.
Thank you for taking the time to listening to me.
For more on this situation, please read the following post.
When Can We Talk About Race? by Jose Vilson
Conversations With My Son Regarding the Mike Brown Murder by Rafranz Davis
Just Start by Jenna Shaw
If this is the Goal of Education by John Spencer
What Do We Teach About Ferguson, MO? by Chris Lehman
What Do We Teach When Kids Are Dying? by Chris Lehmann
#Ferguson by Bill Ferriter
To Be A Better Teacher, A Better Person by Philip Cummings