It is almost the end of the semester! Crazy, right? As we approach the end of this year, it is the time to ask yourself, “What did I learn this year and how can I apply that to my future career in education?”
For an assignment, I was required to go to the Museum of Art and find a piece of art that speaks to me about what I have learned this semester. The artwork I picked is called “Le Premier Chagrin”, which means, “First Grief.” Here it is:
Isn’t it beautiful? Believe me, it is even more breathtaking in person. To me, it looks like the girl in the blue was sitting on the side of the road crying. The girl in the brown, who was on her way to do something else, noticed her distress and stopped to comfort her.
As I pondered the message of this painting, I was reminded of the catchphrase the General Relief Society President, Sister Linda K. Burton, used in her talk in General Conference this last October: “First observe, then serve.”
I think the depth of that simple phrase is amazing. I talked to my supervisor at my other job about this concept, and he related a humorous story. His wife broke her shoulder some years back, and so was unable to use her arm. Her well-meaning Relief Society decided to serve her by bringing meals and cleaning the house. What they didn’t know was that my supervisor did all the housework and cooking, so they didn’t need the Relief Society to come and do that for them!
That Relief Society was meaning to serve, and I am sure that if circumstances were different, their service would have been greatly appreciated. However, because they did not first observe what my supervisor’s wife actually needed, they were not able to serve her in a way that truly helped her.
The point is that we need to provide the service that is needed, not just the one we are willing to give. The girl in the brown had other things to do, probably, but she didn’t say, “I’ll come over and clean your house when I have some time.” She observed the other girl’s grief and stopped what she was doing to provide comfort because that is what the girl in blue really needed.
As teachers, we must first observe what our students need, then provide that support that they need. If we are not careful to observe the students’ needs first, we will end up teaching lessons that don’t help and filling needs that aren’t there, and that’s a waste of time and energy.
I took CPSE 300 (Exceptional Students: Principles of Collaboration) first block this semester and I think the big idea that I took away from that class was that each student needs something different. For the gifted child, that might just be a little extra attention. For a child with dyslexia, that might just be printing their worksheets on blue paper so it is easier to read. Teachers must have the skill to first observe the students’ needs, and then use the tools they have to fill them. It’s not easy, but it is worth it.
I think that we can practice for this right now by observing the people around us and filling their needs. Much like our students, the people around us have needs that are all unique, and we can make a difference in the world by finding needed ways to serve them.
Keep observing and serving and have a great weekend!