One of the strange things about becoming a student at my stage in life is that I am finding out just how different it is on the other side of the desk. In the first few days here at IMC we were deluged with information – or so it seemed to me: timetables, rotas, introductions, guided tours, schedules, new faces and so much more. I kept thinking of induction days at the start of each new year in my previous job and how much information I loaded onto the students – expecting them to take it all on board and, no doubt, misreading their glazed smiles as evidence of understanding instead of indications of a serious dose of information overload.
Thirty-five years ago, in my early days as a primary school teacher, I remember having very little interest in what the children’s parents thought or had to say about their children’s education – teacher training did not include matters like that in those days. But then it all changed when I became a parent myself and stood outside the school gate, joining in the conversations with other parents about the latest happenings inside the school walls. I had opinions about my daughters’ education and I wanted their teachers to listen! I had found a new commitment to parental involvement in education and it stayed with me for the rest of my career.
So what is my point here? Just one more story… A few weeks ago, as part of our course here at IMC, we had some training in conflict resolution. One of the activities involved us sitting in pairs with a spare chair between us: Person A listened and observed while Person B expressed their opinion on something they felt strongly about; then Person B moved to the empty chair and tried to present the opposite point of view with equal conviction. We had a lot of fun doing the role play but the point came across strongly: literally sitting in someone else’s seat helped us identify with another opinion. Apparently Henry Ford said: ‘If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own’. Maybe it’s not too late to learn a new lesson for life!