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. ┬áBut, 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!

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