Over the weekend, I remembered a profound lesson my father taught me years ago. As an eye doctor, he explained the shift he made after less than a year of practice. In his eagerness, zeal, and knowledge, he shared that he could diagnose the patient’s eye problem quickly by observation and begin thinking through the treatment process. Often, he was able to determine the course of action without even talking with the patient! This resulted in him being able to move more patients in and out of his office, so he could help more patients and increase productivity.
Yet, he came to realize that, even though he proved the necessary physical treatment of the patient’s eye, he did not treat their human need to share their story. Although he knew the necessary course of action to treat their eye, he deprived them of sharing the background on what occurred, their pain, and how it has impacted them. My dad recognized the need to allow patients to share their story as part of their healing process. Today, he is known not only for the precision and work he physically does to help heal others, but he is also esteemed for his compassionate heart and sensitivity to others.
I was reminded of this story at an annual retreat with the Worthington Resource Pantry Board Meeting. As part of the visioning process, a facilitator asked a question that went beyond the physical aspects the pantry provides regarding food, resources, and training to those in need. The facilitator asked the question: “How do you want clients to feel that are serviced at the Pantry?”
The members of Board all agreed it was a profound question – it isn’t just about supplying physical needs to others; it’s also about empathesizing with them and treating the whole person. Our conversations lifted the tone of the meeting, as we talked about the need to provide dignity, hope, pride, welcomed, invited, and a sense of community to the question.
In schools, it’s no different.
In the midst of helping a student with a math question, are we focusing on how we are making students feel? It’s not enough to just teach them how to solve the problem; we also have to provide them with hope and a sense that they see themselves as capable learners.
As a parent comes in to the office frustrated with a school situation, are we concentrating on just answering their question? It’s not about just being efficient in bringing resolution to their issue; we have to make sure they know we care and want to build positive relationships for the future.
In our continued work in classrooms, we realize the power of good questions leveraging the learning concept. The same holds true in our daily work that we should ask those around us:
It’s a scary question that definitely evokes vulnerability. In leadership and life, the marker between a great leader and a good manager is not just getting the work done; rather, it is ensuring others feel valued, heard, safe, and respected. As you continue to lead in your schools, keep this question at the center of the work to help treat the whole person.