Post Cards from the edge of my life as a Tech Facilitator:
As I was walking around the halls of my soon to be former school this week, a revelation became clear to me, "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care..." No! really... I mean that--- nobody cares how much you know, they really need to know that you care first! The line came to me from a close colleague and friend, Lacy Brigman who said it in context of how much she was going to miss me. She said that what she would miss most about me is that I showed people I cared.
I thought long and hard about that and then came to realize that this is something that I need to share with administrators. Not because I am the best at showing people I care, but clearly it is a need that people are feeling out there especially in light of all the "bad stuff" being thrown at teachers these days. I spoke at my administrative meeting the next day and tried to convey the meaning in Lacy's quote. I think they heard me, but I felt like I missed saying some of the emphasis I was trying to convey. So, the following is what I wanted to get across.
Why were people all over the school crying about me leaving? Were they going to miss my help as a technology facilitator that much? And my conclusion was: No...I was really not that great of a technology facilitator. Sure, I studied technology and have a degree in it, and after 12 years I think I have enough experience to diagnose many problems that teachers encounter on a daily basis, but in the end all that knowledge doesn't matter.
People simply want to know that you care about them. Period. What may seem insignificant to someone like me who sees a multitude of technology problems, to the individual teacher who has endured so much in one day, a lost file, a projector not working, or their laptop acquiring a virus can be enough to send them over the edge.
So, when I reflected on just what my strategies were in helping people, I came up with the following ideas and here in lies the lessons for administrators and other support people:
1) Let the person know you have their undivided attention. Listen to them attentively and look them in the eye showing them you care about their problem. Don't be on your blackberry answering an e-mail while they stand there feeling like yet another person doesn't understand what they are going through.
2) Let them know this same problem happens all the time. There is nothing worse than being ridiculed and made to feel like being stupid is what caused the laptop to crash. I have been guilty of this in a poor attempt at humor, but have learned that this can really hurt a person's feelings.
3) Get to know a little bit about someone when you are visiting with them. The personal connection can result in a multitude of "sin forgiveness". So, I might not be able to solve your virus ridden laptop problem immediately, but in the course of asking: "how was your week?" or "how are your kids?" you and I exchange just a little bit of empathy between one another. You can't underestimate the importance of this.
4) Compliment something in their classroom. (and I don't mean the essential question or some other "requirement" for a "classroom walk-thru"). Showing teachers you care about something going on in their room shows that you appreciate what they are doing for kids, and acknowledges them as hard working professionals.
5) Finally, be calm in your demeanor and attitude. The last thing a teacher needs after a day of students climbing up the walls is someone who conveys intensity and impatience. If I act like the laptop breaking is going to "rock my world", it only heightens the stress of an already bad situation, and sends the message that my time is more important than their time.
So, these are some of the lessons I learned this week as I walked around my school and had to say goodbye to people I never wanted to leave. These suggestions are not all that profound, but I think they are reminders that we all need to be HUMAN first. I hope others will take these lessons learned and know that there must be some truth in them since I heard them over and over again.