I would be a terrible witness. I vividly recall a time a few years ago when I had just parked my car in a commercial plaza with my teenage daughter in tow. Suddenly, we heard someone shout, “Call the police!” We turned to see a figure running hastily across the parking lot with a store employee trailing behind. I called the police and when the operator asked me for a description of the suspect I faltered, turning to my daughter. She was able to provide an excellent detailed description. I looked at her in amazement as I hadn’t even seen half of what she had noticed. Clearly, this was an area of growth for me!
I’d like to think my abysmal witnessing skills don’t transfer into my role as an educator where I believe I do make an effort to ‘notice’. As I wander the halls during breaks, I’m not supervising, I’m noticing. I am looking for the student who is often sitting alone, the one who looks upset or anxious, or the one looking particularly excited. I view all of those situations as invitations to engage, an opportunity to connect, to support, or to share in their excitement.
I also encourage others to ‘notice’. Here is an excerpt from my message to graduates two years ago.
“In a world in which technology connects us, one in which ‘selfie’ has been recognized as a legitimate word in the Oxford Dictionary, please don’t lose sight of the importance of paying attention to others. Look outwards – around and beyond you and notice who is out there. When presented with the opportunity, don’t hesitate to make an effort to reach out and offer your support. Small gestures of goodwill go a long way. Rely on your heart to guide your actions. Sometimes it takes just one person to make a difference in another’s life, and that one person could be you.”
The adolescent years can be an emotional roller coaster, full of ups and downs. I will endeavour to notice and support students at all stages of their bumpy ride. I am still not confident that I will be an effective witness, yet I plan on really trying to be a purposeful observer throughout 2020!