Alexis Wiggins, a high school teacher, shadowed high school students for two days and gained a world of insight into her profession. Her essay (online here) describes the experience and critical lessons learned. One of these lessons is particularly relevant to everyone in a service profession:
[T]here was a good deal of sarcasm and snark directed at students and I recognized, uncomfortably, how much I myself have engaged in this kind of communication…Of course it feels ridiculous to have to explain the same thing five times, but suddenly, when I was the one taking the tests, I was stressed. I was anxious. I had questions. And if the person teaching answered those questions by rolling their eyes at me, I would never want to ask another question again. I feel a great deal more empathy for students after shadowing, and I realize that sarcasm, impatience, and annoyance are a way of creating a barrier between me and them. They do not help learning.
Sarcasm and snark are easy traps when you’re answering the same questions over and over again. It’s a tedious task, and snarkiness is an easy way for the brain to keep itself entertained. But, in the context of service, this is rude behavior that will drive our patrons away. Wiggins’ shadowing exercise helped her to find the antidote:
I have a lot more respect and empathy for students after just one day of being one again.
Shadowing patrons (or finding a reasonable facsimile) may help us all to develop more empathy and respect for those whom we serve.
H/T to @LibGirl09 for tweeting about the article!