From Contention To Connection

“You just don’t understand.” 

“You just don’t get it.”

How often did we unleash these phrases in our younger years on the adults in our life?  And if we weren’t unfurling them on those same unsuspecting adults, we were definitely thinking about it.  For many of us, it was a battle cry of frustration.  We seldom believed our parents, our teachers, or the many other adults in our life understood us and what we were all about.  Whether that was the interests or the passions that engaged our time and thoughts.  We considered it a waste of time and effort, a foray into frustration, since they wouldn’t ‘get it’ anyways.  For many of us, that was our mindset growing up.

And the same rang true in my own life.  From my early years through my teens, the battle cry of “You just don’t understand” and “You don’t get it” were never far from my lips.  If I wasn’t saying it, I was definitely thinking it.  And that held true towards most of the adults in my life…from my parents, to my teachers, and beyond.  I just didn’t think they would get it.  And it wasn’t worth the frustration, anyways.

Even as a child, from the tender age of six, I had a strong sense of what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be.  I did not know exactly what to call it (academic vocabulary)…yet, I knew it when I saw and heard it.  I wanted a guitar..I wanted to play in the band.  I never looked at a bass, the drums, or even singing…nary was any other instrument considered.  My eyes were on the prize…I ate, drank, and slept guitar and music.  It was what I wanted to learn, it was what I wanted to do, it was what I wanted to be.

The funny thing was that even at the immature age of six, my friends got it, they understood it, even though we were only in the first grade.  At my sixth birthday party, every gift resonated with my passion for music.  Each unwrapping provided an album, a poster, or some other memorabilia for that passion…a passion to play in the band, and the band I wanted to play in was KISS.

Unfortunately, the support for that interest and passion did not ring the same bell for the adults in my life.  That is not to say they did not support me, rather, this interest and passion was not one they either understood or even agreed with.  I don’t think they ever realized, at that early of an age, music had such an impact and hold on me.  They definitely did not believe that it provided the impetus, aspiration, and passion for what I wanted to do with my life.  Even if they would have recognized this, it would definitely not have been on their list of areas to reinforce in my life.  The same resistance was found at school with teachers.  The idea of playing in a band as a future profession was usually met with a snide or sarcastic comment.

So from my early years on…music became more of a source of contention than one of connection.  And unfortunately, this contention often drove a wedge and caused friction in our family relationships, which often spilled over into the school setting.  The more the adults in my life clamored against this direction, the stronger the passion became, often playing a major factor in decisions made during my high school years.

Unfortunately, things never really changed in regards to my passion for music serving as a point of contention, rather than a point of connection.  Eventually, I chose a different path to follow for my life and the issue became a moot point.  However, it does provide a lesson for us as adults, parents, and educators.

We often hear discussions these days focused on the importance of staying relevant as educators…staying current with technology, instructional strategies, changing paradigms and mindsets, just for starters.  And yet, we are often at a total loss to what is relevant and important in the lives of our children and the students we teach and lead.  It is a completely different form of relevance, but just as vital and important.

A relevance in what interests our children and students…what they are passionate about learning, doing, and even one day becoming.  What drives them and piques their interest.  An attentiveness to what makes them who they are and acknowledging the significant drivers in their life.  Unfortunately, the preoccupied life of many adults keep us distanced from truly investing in an understanding our young people…what they are passionate about, what they want to do or be, and what engages and kindles their fire for learning.

When we take the time to observe, to listen, to engage, to just understand…we often move from contention to connection.  We learn to place ourselves in their shoes and approach them with empathy and understanding, We create a connection of influence.  Which is what we all strive for as parents, and as educators.  Learning to loosen our need for control, to approach situations from a new place…and a new level of listening and understanding.  It is from this place, this connection, that our own children and students learn that we are for them.  For their success.  That we truly have their best interests in mind.  It takes us to a place of influence.

Moving from contention to connection is not easy.  It requires time, effort, and work…it requires reflection, and most importantly it requires listening and understanding.  It is intentional.  It requires us to intentionally dial in to those within our influence, which allows our children and students to feel valued.  To realize that they matter.  As do their thoughts.  Their ideas.  Their passions.  Their interests.  It is at this place that we truly make a difference.

Stay current.  Stay relevant.  Listen.  Understand.  Invest.  Believe.

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