What is the focus?

Building on an idea

Last week I watched the powerful Netflix special Nanette by Hannah Gadsbey. I came across so many recommendations for the film and finally decided to sit down and watch it. I would pass along the recommendation to anyone. The idea that we all have a story but so often only a small piece of the story sees the light of day really resounded with me and I can see where it can impact my teaching and as such I have thoughts. I have let them just scratch at the back of my brain kind of like how Molly the less than Wonderdog tends to scratch at the back door.

“We learn from the part of the story we focus on”

I thought this was such a powerful line in the film and really made me think about what we focus on. I know I have talked about the importance of stories of our students and co-workers before, what I feel is new in my frame of thought is the idea of focus. When we look at student behaviour we often focus on the “problem” and search for a solution but we rarely put our focus on the cause. I think looking at the whole story, letting students have the chance to tell it, not just some of the parts but building a relationship that is strong enough to support their whole story, that they feel safe and protected is key in building those relationships. What are we learning about our students? Do we get the whole story? What about our colleagues are we giving them the chance to share their stories?

“Stories hold our cure”

Simple statement that holds a lot of power. If the answer to much of our struggles is in the stories how do we not take the time to listen? Life is busy, school is busy. THere is a lot to do but I do not think there is anything more important than letting our students know that we want to know their stories. Looking at the “how” I think the answer is in the personalization of education. Are we talking to our students about how they best learn? Are we conferring with them around their work? Are we taking those moments to learn our students’ stories? These last few days I have been in a discussion around the reliance we have on in the teaching profession at times on the “quick fixes” I think when it comes to learning our students’ stories it is all about time, there is no quick fix. Finding ways to open up our schedule for more student one on one, more conversations and more authentic work will be a great first step. When we are doing things like putting students in front of worksheets and in authentic activities we are telling them that their time is not worth ours. No stories will be told when students don’t feel valued.

Our focus needs to be on the connection

As a school, the culture is the most important piece. Do staff feel connected with staff? With students? Do students feel connected with each other? How can we build those connections? How do we help students feel safe to tell their stories? These are the questions that are so important to answer. This is the work that we are trusted to do. The Reading, Writing and Arithmetic will come once the connections are built, once students have a chance to tell their stories and we choose to focus on the whole thing, not just the part that sticks out the most. When we focus on the why and listen to the answer we will be better prepared to help our students succeed but not just succeed. To feel seen, wanted, respected and valued. That is the goal we should be pursuing in our classrooms.

Closing Thoughts

I am grateful for the opportunity to watch Nanette, to be able to take the parts that stuck out to me and apply it to my thinking regarding my students and coworkers. In the end, it is all about connection, we never know someones full story until they feel free enough to tell it. Let’s not assume we understand the actions of others without getting that chance to learn with them.

One thought on “What is the focus?

  1. These ideas about “stories’ resonated with me. I’m currently reading Talk Like TED. (I thought I would pick up some ways to improve my speaking with students.) In the beginning, Gallo presents research about how our brain reacts when we hear stories. The connection between stories and connecting with others is strong – we remember more, we become more passionate. This post reminded me of that research because we can reach students with stories.

    Thanks for interesting insight.


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