I’ve decided that one of my goals for the new year is to look at people with different eyes. I’ve blogged recently about how this affects me in my career as a teacher; I have colleagues who quickly pigeonhole their students into categories like “smart” or “lazy” or “troublemaker”. Everything they do from that point on is seen through that filter. Of course, since only certain qualities make it through the filter, from that point on, everything the children do just confirms the bias, strengthening the filter.
The only cure for this vicious circle is to remove the filter. See people with clear eyes, and treat them the way I’d want to be treated. Cynics will say that this Christian approach to relationships is old-fashioned and naive. But it works, as attested in this story from March. (Thanks, by the way to Alec Couros for drawing my attention to this via Twitter!)
So I’m going to make every effort this year to see everyone with whom I interact—students, colleagues, friends, family—without filters, without assumptions, without preconceptions. In a lot of cases, I’m going to have to consciously remove the filters, and in all likelihood it will take more than one attempt to do so.
I can already hear those cynics again, telling me that I’ll get taken advantage of if I do that. Very possible. But if I can improve one relationship, or help change one other person’s attitude, or make one person’s life a little better, then I don’t see the problem. I’m not going to be stupid, certainly. If someone’s track record indicates they really are lazy or untrustworthy, then I’ll be cautious. But I won’t automatically funnel each new act or choice that person makes into the same category. I’ll first consider the possibility that they may be capable of changing and growing.
After all, it’s what I’d hope from them. I have made and continue to make mistakes and bad choices in my life. It doesn’t mean that everything I do from here on out will be a mistake or a bad choice. I want to start treating other people with the same consideration.