I recently began to read Talk to Me: Find the Right Words to Inspire, Encourage, and Get Things Done by Kim Bearden. The first of six principles of effective communication that she addresses is consideration. Kim suggests:
How do you develop the consideration mindset? To truly be empathetic, you have to realize that you simply do now know everything there is to know. Reflect on your own experiences to help you better imagine what life might look like from another’s perspective. (Bearden, p. 14)
In the book, this is followed by the abridged version of Kim’s life. I’m going to use her work as a mentor text for myself.
I had a wonderful childhood and upbringing in a small and happy family in NJ. I was blessed to know all four of my grandparents my entire childhood and into my adulthood. Before I became an educator I had the opportunity to attend college in VA, study abroad in Spain, travel to Europe before my parents had ever been, and live in dorms, apartments, and houses.
Since becoming an educator, I have moved across the country and changed jobs many times, working in 5 school districts as a teacher, literacy coach, assistant principal, principal, and district administrator. I’ve taught at the university level. I’ve been mentored by strong leaders and tried to mentor others along the way. I have worked in schools and districts with high levels of students who are learning English as a second language, students from homes with low socioeconomic levels, students with disabilities, students from a variety of races and ethnicities, and students with challenges I had never heard of before.
I have traveled around the world with family and friends. I’ve served as a loving aunt and a worried sister. I know what it is to lose a parent too young to an awful disease. I’ve watched those same grandparents get older, sicker, and pass (one as late as 101 years old!). I know what love looks like in my life and I’ve learned how different it has manifested in others’ lives. I now know the unearned advantages I benefit from thanks to my race, my parents’ socioeconomic status, and the value of hard work that my parents instilled in me.
I have found love and stress in every job I’ve ever had, and with age and experience have come more strategies to find a better balance between those. I know what it feels like to be frustrated and angry over a system that doesn’t serve all students as they deserve. I also know what it feels like when you see that light bulb moment with a student or a teacher or a mentee.
Despite all of this, or maybe because of this, I also know that there are things I don’t understand. I don’t know what it’s like to be without food, shelter, electricity, or safety. I can’t comprehend what it’s like to have a child of my own or lose a child. I can’t experience what it’s like to be a man or to be part of the LGBTQ community. I will never know what life in America is like as a person of color.
All of this feeds my ability to empathize and consider the perspectives of others. What life experiences have created your perspective?