Critical Thinking, Argument and Seeking to Understand

Posted November 4, 2018

Along with my Saturday morning coffee, I often sit and go through my twitter feed as a leisurely way to make myself think differently (I do tell teaching staff that I see one of my main jobs as a leader is to make them think differently or reflectively) and add to my professional and personal development.

As I navigated the posts and my thinking (along with recent media about migrants heading to the US border, the fatal shootings of the Jewish community, etc.) I found myself getting more and more frustrated at the vitriol and negative comments and posts that are directed at people and their views on social media. This seeming increase in negativity and even “hate speech” in some cases, led me to reflect on the importance of my role as an educational leader and what I could do to try and ensure that we are building and promoting values of inclusion and understanding.

As an educator who believes in equity and whose role is to help grow our future citizens, I have always wrestled with how people (children, in particular) can be “mean” through comments they make toward someone else. I think that reacting emotionally when we feel attacked and “de-humanizing” or finding fault with the other person is “easier”. It takes less time (one does not have to take the time to listen). It also avoids the need to challenge oneself, one’s beliefs, and one’s stance.

The challenge, when in a conflict situation or disagreement, is to engage in a conversation; seeking to understand the situation or the other person’s stance (demonstrating empathy). This is why we teach self-regulation, listening, critical thinking, and social problem solving in school – how to get along with each other in a respectful way. In schools, one can see educators actively supporting this starting in Kindergarten, the Early Years.

To come back around to my original path of having a coffee and reading some blogs…I read this blog https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/good-thinking-erik-palmer/ by Kristy Louden (@loudenclearblog). Ironically, this week I had also walked into the resource room and in front of a group of students told the resource teacher that I had “come to argue” and explained to the children that part of “arguing” was exchanging and debating ideas, listening to another’s point of view to help examine and clarify your own – not yelling and name calling (which I think is one of the most common connotations of “arguing”).

So, where did this leave me? It inspired me to write this blog about my duty to continue to support and promote staff, community and students in developing their #empathy, #seekingtounderstand, and #criticalthinking skills.

Our duty then, is to listen and think critically of the information that is presented to us. And, as Maya Angelou wisely said: “If you can be one thing in this world, be kind”.

Categories: Principal's Blog