Watching the footage of the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris yesterday was really difficult – so very sad.
Like countless others, I found myself thinking of Quasimodo, the main character in Hugo’s famous book “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and of Walt Disney’s animated film, who spent his life living at the cathedral.
Quasimodo’s thoughts or feelings interested no one. You might say his voice wasn’t heard. Speaking of hearing, you may recall that Quasimodo was deaf, a hearing loss caused by being in close proximity to the church bells on a permanent basis.
Deaf…hmmm… I can imagine Quasimodo being a student of mine… I would like to believe he would be “heard” in our classroom.
Luckily, Jennifer Gonzalez channeled such thoughts of mine pertaining to alternate realities into the infinitely more practical realm of the classroom and staff room in her post “The Magic of Validation” (thanks to Adam Welcome for pointing the way!).
I mean actual reality. Gonzalez takes the somewhat abstract sounding concept of validation (which we’ve all heard about before) and breaks it down into sections, including why validating matters, how it is done and why we resist validating. Her examples could be taken from almost any classroom or staff room.
Schools are a place in which conflicts arise – diffusing conflicts before they escalate into unnecessarily explosive situations with “negative snowball side effects” is a highly relevant skill.
We need to hear Gonzalez’s reminder, again and again (and spread the word!) that validating a colleague’s feelings does not mean you agree with his/her opinion and are now going to do everything her way. Validating a student’s opinion does not mean you have to be “touchy -feely“: “Okay, validation doesn’t have to look and sound like you’re in a therapist’s office. You can develop your own style. It can sound tough, it can be quick…”
If Gonzalez can quote her gym teacher, I can quote my gym teacher too (I’m most certainly not doing CrossFit, by the way!): “I know this exercise is hard for you, Naomi. That’s exactly why it is important for you to keep doing it!”
Gonzalez doesn’t talk about the numbers of students in a class. I’m concerned that class size matters. How do my colleagues who teach classes of 40 students manage to make every student feel heard? Don’t ask me – I’m a teacher of Students with Special Needs, my classes are small! Perhaps part of the answer lies in this quote from the post “The thing to remember is that validation is not necessary in all interactions…”
You see, people want to be heard. Despite rumors to the contrary, students and teachers are people too.
If only poor Quasimodo had the opportunity to be heard before it was too late …