Saturday, May 29, 2010

Great Interpretations are a Result of Careful Observations

Great interpretations are a result of careful observations.
I have this on a banner spanning one of my classroom walls. I've spent a great deal of time this year helping my students fine tune their observation and interpretation skills. It occurs to me that we could all use a little fine-tuning in these areas.

Some of us are quite skilled at reading their environments and those who inhabit them. Some of us are sensitized to changes in this environment like a barometer detects subtle changes in air pressure.
Others are a little less sensitive and find it difficult to read many common social cues. And still others read quite well, but ignore what they see.

All three of these levels of observation exist in my classroom. Being observant isn't just something that makes learning more interesting; it makes living with others much more "doable."

But becoming more observant is a skill that can be taught. Contrary to popular belief, it's not a matter of reading minds or being psychic!

Take, for instance, my oldest son. My mother lovingly called him "Oblivio" trying to link his tendency to overlook the obvious with a superhero name. Those who are immersed in their own worlds tend to miss what's going on with those around them. What's considered cute when they're young turns into annoying and selfish when they're older. We need to help our "Oblivio's" see outside of themselves and teach them how to become mindful of the needs of others.

On the other end of the observant spectrum is the "Over-Sensitive" one. This is the one who seems to quietly watch everyone around them. She sees all and says nothing. Many of these tender ones have an almost empathic sensibility. They feel deeply and take personally things we may not even notice. As in touch as they may seem to us when they're young, and as mature as it seems, it makes life difficult when they're older. They may overreact, battle depression, and even make relationships too challenging to endure. We need to help our  emotional sponges to separate out what they can and cannot control and teach them how to deal with those things they can control in a positive way.

The rest of us fall somewhere between these two extremes. But it's safe to say that we could all benefit from taking inventory of our powers of observation. After all, how can you truly interpret the world around you if your observations are not accurate?