Back when Garth Brooks was an international musical star, he gave part of an interview from the nosebleed section of Cowboy Stadium in Dallas, TX. He explained how he likes to make the trek up to those seats to get the perspective of what the show will be like from there and to remind himself that it is his responsibility to somehow make the person in that seat feel something through the music.
This interview popped into my head recently whilst sitting in the dentist’s chair. I found myself wondering how often a dentist sits in his own chair to interpret the experience of a filling, a cleaning, or any other procedures. My Dad’s sermons were full of illustrative nuggets of theological wisdom at his typewriter, but I’m sure a few created pew-squirming when they went too long, or wandered too deep on a humid, southern Sunday morning. Some of my “best” classroom lessons and written musings have garnished painful (to me) responses and reviews, usually when I didn’t consider my audience long or widely enough.
From the dentist chair, I realized how important it is to occasionally take the time…MAKE the time…to improve my own work by taking the lens of someone else experiencing it. Becoming vulnerable to learn takes guts. It requires that we move from the frameworks of our own mind to that of another. This is more than empathy of how our students, readers, cavity-receivers, or listeners feel and consider how someone else might think, and think differently, from ourselves. Knowing your intentions as a practitioner and how they are received as the practiced upon can be dichotomous events.
For this reason I gather feedback constantly by using exit slips and really listening to the kids and teachers I learn with when they reflect their experiences. Team teaching with a partner was the most effective professional development for my practice, because two to three times each week, my partner and I took turns delivering lessons we created together so one of us could experience it as a kid. I’ve also videoed myself, a charming experience, to make the connections between what I meant to do and how it came across, learning that I’m much more animated in my mind than I convey with my body…something I can change, but wouldn’t have realized had I not intentionally shifted from the framework of my mind to the lens of those whose thinking I am here to support.