Hearts and Minds

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Maya Angelou

If you want to get your readers to think about what you are saying, and to take it on board, it is very useful to consider the tone that you adopt. If your readers feel that you are being patronising, or that you are treating them as stupid, this is likely to get their backs up. If you say that you have a ‘mission’ (ensure everyone uses the best methods for teaching; get all children to read; address social inequality) this rather suggests that no one else thought to do such things before you came along. If you tell your readers that everything they do is wrong, but that you know how to make it right, this is likely to annoy them as well. There are a lot of very intelligent people out there, quite a few of whom like to style themselves as ‘New Traditionalists’. They tell me that it will take years to overcome the damage that has been done to our system by ‘progressive education’. Clearly, since I’ve been working in the system for the last twenty years, I should shoulder my own portion of the blame.

I don’t feel a burning desire to change other people’s minds, but if you do, then it’s worth focusing carefully on your social, emotional and interpersonal skills. You don’t win people’s hearts and minds by being rude, patronising or inflexible; by telling them that what you do is right, and that everyone else really should do it exactly the same way as you. You don’t win people’s hearts and minds by being rude about colleagues, or by fermenting division and trying to paint the world in shades of black and white. The reason that my teaching books have been so successful is not because I have a magic formula that no one else discovered. It is not because I have a brilliant intellect, or a method that will work where every other method has failed. It is because I speak to my readers on a level; I treat them as intelligent, sensitive and sensible human beings. I understand their frailties, their struggles and their mistakes, because I have been there (and regularly still am there) too.

The best, the only, way to win people’s hearts and minds is to be kind, gentle, generous, humble, funny where possible, and unfailingly polite. You are no more special than I am; but I am definitely no more special than you.

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3 Responses to Hearts and Minds

  1. Hi Sue, I’ve a real sympathy for people who aren’t kind, gentle, generous, humble etc… because that was me, by the end of my education. If I saw my 18 year old, or 21 year old self now, I wouldn’t recognise her. As a ‘good student’ who won prizes and got good grades I felt my own identity slip away over my school years as it became more and more wrapped around being ‘better’ than others in my class, or year group, or nation! If I dipped in marks lower than someone else, I made sure I was doing at least one extra-curricular activity more than that person. In school I only burned out occasionally, by the end of university they were telling me to see a doctor for anxiety pills. I resented people with more money, more connections and more ‘luck’ than me. I identified incompetence in a flash and often tried to call it out. And eventually, thankfully, I realised it’s our world that’s crazy. All I’ve ever wanted to do was help people. But helping others in school means sacrificing precious time for study. It would mean missing out on the best grades and prizes. I never wanted to be cruel, it’s not my way. But I’ll always by sympathetic to those who are, because I’ve felt how our world can make us so.

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    • suecowley says:

      You’re so right, and I’m definitely not saying I’m perfect either. Getting it right is the work of a lifetime and most of us never manage it. What I was trying to explain here is the best way to go about changing other people’s hearts and minds. because I’m aware that this is what some people would like to do. (Me, I’m quite happy to agree to disagree.) This was a last blog on the subject, though, because now it’s July I’m giving up the pedagogy debates to focus on the positive. 🙂

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      • Thanks for the reply Sue. I guess, for me personally, I’m on a journey of figuring out who I am after feeling delayed in doing that for so long and, on a side note, how did it happen that I got so lost? And all that. Even if the topics can be serious I’d like you to know that I’m full of joy when discussing pedagogy things and it’s a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to reply to posts on blogs like yours 😀

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