Till they have Faces

During the latter part of the service year, we usually give the members a chance to take the lead in training and offer their team something of their own skill set and experience. One such member, Ben, decided to teach the team a session on Gratitude and how to invite people into a circle of grace.

At the time, all the members were battling with the ZOOM world for working with their students. For most of them, the level of participation for students was haphazard or low. Many students refused to show their faces. It was a regular topic about how hard it was to engage with a screen that only had a name, and nothing else. Funa took the teaching on gratitude to heart and decided to change his mind set in how he handled this frustration with his faceless students. Next time he had his ZOOM class, he greeted the blank squares on the screen with gratitude that the students had even managed that much in terms of showing up. He could not see if the student responded or not, but Funa decided that if they did not want to show their face, that was going to be OK. And even if nothing changed for the student, the experience was different for Funa.

Fast forward to the start of this school year. Funa signed on again to serve and returns to the classroom at Sligo Middle School. He is with a group of students that he has not met. One of them suddenly says, “I know you I think. Weren’t you on ZOOM last year and were the one helping everyone and welcoming us all?” Funa said he was not sure because he could not recognize any of their faces. Turns out that this student was one of the faceless participants on the ZOOM classes that Funa had welcomed. Now she had a face. Because the student recognized him, she immediately told all the other students, “Mr. Funa is here to help, so if you have any problems, go to him.”

And that is what Funa spent the rest of the class doing, receiving the students and their question on the strength of this one faceless student who appreciated the attitude of gratitude that Funa had learned to adopt, through the teaching and training of his fellow team mate. The student only had a face when she recognized Funa, not so much from the face but from the smile in his voice.

We teach the members in their interaction with students that there is a double learning loop. It is not the members’ experience of the student that matters so much as what the student experiences of the member as she or he experiences the student. The example of Funa is a perfect example of this. It’s not what impression I have of you, but what do I mirror back to you about how I encounter you in this moment. Gratitude can change everything.