I read a post yesterday on social media that really upset me. I know – why am I reading posts on social media right now? Who knows, but I did. The part that upset me was not that people have different opinions than me or are making different decisions in the midst of this COVID pandemic than me – it’s the name calling and assumptions that are running rampant right now.
Why is it:
- That if I want to send my kid to school, I don’t care about his safety or care about him at all (that was on this post that I read yesterday that has been going around)?
- That if I want to teach face-to-face, I clearly don’t care about others?
- That if I don’t want to teach face-to-face, I’m lazy?
- That if I say that the virtual learning wasn’t good for my son, that I’m implying that teachers are bad?
- That if a school district starts on time, they don’t care about their staff and students?
- That if a school district starts late, they are not wanting to see kids yet?
- That if I’m a single mom and have to work in order to feed my kids and can’t afford child care, I’m a bad mom for wanting my kids to go back to school?
- If I haven’t left my house in 6 months because I don’t want to risk anything, I’m overreacting?
- If I’m going about my day to day, I’m irresponsible?
- That if I want schools to open, I’m ok with children dying (what?!)?
- That if I want schools to stay closed, I’m okay with students not getting a good education?
Ya’ll – we are going to have different feelings about this situation. Everyone’s experience is different, and everyone has different reasons for feeling certain way.
Recently, as we have completed the creation of our newest training and I’ve been thinking a lot about how we are handling this time, this phrase has been running through my mind:
Assume positive intent.
What if we looked at each person’s opinion and decisions through the assumption that they had positive intent and were trying to make the best decision possible. I heard a saying at the beginning of the COVID spread that said “We are all in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat.” How true that rings out now. Just because virtual learning works fine for my kids and my household, doesn’t mean that it works for yours. Just because you have a parent home who can stay with your 3 kids, doesn’t mean your neighbor does.
And here’s another point – do we really feel confident in the information that we have about COVID? Do we really feel like we can even make a confident “right” decision. Depending on your political lean and which news medias you read and watch, you may be hearing completely different, and even conflicting information!
Everyone has different perspectives and reasons. We have to stop the divisive name calling. I believe this is coming from a place of fear, and no one operates well living in perpetual fear.
Dr. Shauna T. Sobers of Longhorns for a Cultural Competent Campus introduced this concept of reserving judgment to me, and we discuss it at length in our new training, Cultural Competency in the Classroom, but I think this is the perfect real-world example of where we need to be putting this into practice. Let’s look at the steps:
- What feelings do I have about this situation?
Chris and I had to really sit down and say “What are we scared of? What is our bottom line for our family?” Are you scared of getting COVID, spreading it, losing your job, not being able to keep your home or feed your family, having your children sitting at home all day alone, academic gaps increasing in your children or students, mental health issues stemming from this?
- What lived experiences or perspectives have I had to make me feel this way?
Do you have underlying health issues? Have you seen someone who was affected negatively by COVID? Have you been without a job or had financial issues? Have you always been taught that your health comes first? Have you been taught to work no matter what?
- Is there anything else that could be going on (when you observe a response or action that doesn’t align to your beliefs?).
For those who are handling this differently than you are, could there be good intentions in their actions? Could there be other things going on their lives that are causing them to believe or act this way?
Here’s my starting question: Why does my decision for my family make your decision for your family wrong? It doesn’t. We are all making tough decisions with emotionally-charged information. People are having to decide to go to work even through anxiety, lay employees off or furlough people because of lack of income, pick up second jobs because of cut hours, shut businesses down, and make decisions that affect the welfare of children and adults daily. You may be faced with some of these decisions as well. Let’s have empathy for each other. My family has been affected. Has yours? We’ve had to make decisions. Have you? You will not agree with all of the decisions, but let’s not automatically assume negative intent, or laziness, or stupidity.
Instead, let’s have grace. Let’s assume positive intent. Let’s lead in love. Let’s reserve judgment. Let’s listen to each other and for pete’s sake, let’s quit name calling, especially over public forums. It only breeds hate and division. Why does something like pandemic bring divisiveness instead of unity in a time when we need each other’s support more than ever?
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