On September 13th, 2017 our community was shaken to the core to learn of a school shooting at Freeman High School, a small rural community south of Spokane, Washington. Freeman Scotties are the epitome of small-town USA and parents from the Spokane area are known to choose to place their children into this school district over their local school district. In Freeman, everyone knows everyone, people look out for one another, and students have deep relationships with their teachers and peers. The school is the heartbeat of this community and on this fateful day, people were saying over and over “not here.” Not in our town. These things do not happen here. Our community is different—not here.
Nobody is immune and school violence can happen anywhere. The alleged shooter sent disturbing notes to friends threatening to commit acts of violence. His friends listened and the notes were turned over to the school counselor. The school followed protocol and he was suspended for three days and could not return until he had passed a mental health evaluation. September 13th was his first day back to school after being suspended and he shot four students, killing one.
We believe teachers and parents must rise up as servant leaders in classrooms, and in their own homes, to care for all children. One way to do that is deeply listening to kids. I can only imagine the difficult conversations families were having after the shooting. I can image parents holding their children close and listening to their concerns, answering their questions the best they can, and being fully present as they worked through the emotions after a traumatic event.
The servant-leader has the ability to listen deeply to students and address cognitive, social, and emotional concerns. Gifted students tend to have heightened sensitivity, known as overexcitabilities, which causes them to feel things more intensely. Listening is a critical teacher attribute that can transform a community of learners.
The purpose of this article is to share three listening strategies teachers can leverage to become a fierce ally to gifted students. These strategies can be used by parents also to build improve their relationship with their child.
Knowing when to speak and when to listen- Knowing when to speak and when to listen is important because in stillness comes reflection. An invitation to children to share what they are thinking comes through deep listening, and wait time. Sometimes, in silence, comes a gentle invitation to say more.
Lifelong learning and intense curiosity- Lifelong learning and intense curiosity allows the teacher to continue to listen to students and grow from those interactions. Gifted students ask complex questions about the world around them. Deeply listening and helping them find the best human, print, and digital resources is a gift teachers can offer their students.
Seek to Understand- A servant leader listens with their eyes and their ears. “Listen” intently to help the child move toward the learning goal. Listen to those things being said, as well as those things not being said. Seeing what the student is sharing, posting to social media, and talking with their friends about can offer a perspective on how that student is really doing on a social and emotional level.
Listening is one disposition of a servant leader when leveraged properly, can heal the hearts of gifted children. In honor of Sam Strahan, the victim who died in the Freeman High School Shooting, practice one of these listening strategies to become a fierce ally to the children you serve. Share the results in the comments below or on social media using the hashtag #giftedresources I am looking forward to hearing more about how you are transforming education for the students you serve.
If you feel led to donate to the Go Fund Me account set up in Sam’s name, you can do that here.