Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Teacher Tuesday: Taking the Time to Understand

Who likes being misunderstood? Go ahead and raise your hand. Don’t be shy. Any takers?

That’s what I thought. No one likes to be misunderstood, misinterpreted, or misjudged. It’s just not something we look forward to. Rather, we want to be understood, identified, and appreciated.
These are things that Mrs. Konopasek takes the time to do.

During my week with the students at Shepherds College, I observed two of Mrs. Konopasek’s Personal Development classes for the first year students. The students were giving personal speeches for their final, and Mrs. Konopasek was grading them. All of the students did an excellent job on their speeches, but some of them had a little trouble behaving professionally either before or after their presentations.

Mrs. Konopasek, Tess, and their new reptile friend
As a teacher, what do you think Mrs. Konopasek did? Yell? Reprimand? Ignore? Send the students to the office? Fail the students? Leave the room?

Let me tell you something: being a teacher is hard stuff. On a much smaller scale, I teach children ages 3-5, one night a week for two hours at a time. It certainly feels like a lot longer than that, but it’s really just two hours.

Sometimes when I am teaching the lesson, my students start to act up. Most of the time I am so engrossed with the lesson that instead of getting to the root of the students’ behavior problems, I simply ignore them or send them to the back of the room to sit with another teacher. This tactic often proves to be detrimental.

If I would take the time to comprehend my students’ problems, I would learn that many times they’re not misbehaving on purpose. They actually have cuts on their fingers or runny noses or the need to use the restroom. A lot of the problems can be solved pretty easily and without me becoming angry or upset. I just need to take the time to listen and understand.

Mrs. Konopasek does that with her students. She listens, and she understands.

During those class periods that I observed, there were two students in particular who were dealing with some issues.

One student began to cry after she received the grade for her presentation. Instead of ignoring the student and letting her “cry it out,” Mrs. Konopasek took the time to step aside and talk to the student. She encouraged the student and reminded her that even though she had wanted a different grade, the grade she had earned was still a very good one. Mrs. Konopasek then allowed the student to get a drink of water and take a short walk to calm her down and stop the tears. The student came back into the classroom looking composed and happy again. Once the problem was understood, there was a simple solution.

Another student dealt with obedience issues throughout the entire class period. She refused to listen and follow instructions, and when she was asked to obey an additional time, she became weepy and nonresponsive. It would have been very easy to send this student to the office, but would it have solved the problem?

Mrs. Konopasek took the time to find out. She spoke to the student privately and then removed the items that had become part of the student’s problem. If the student insisted on putting her books in the wrong place, then it would be best to move them out of sight. Once these two things were done, the student behaved in a completely different way. She was engaged and involved for the rest of the class period.

My guess is that this student was dealing with nerves, tension, and the overwhelming emotions that accompany the stress of finals week. Mrs. Konopasek wasn’t looking at just the behavior problem. She considered the entire context of the situation. Without this perspective, another teacher may have simply sent the student to the office. But Mrs. Konopasek was able to dig to the heart of the problem and remove the distractions instead of removing the student.

Doesn’t it feel wonderful to be understood? At Shepherds College, you can be. All of our teachers have been blessed with the gifts of patience and understanding. And Mrs. Konopasek has an extra-special talent in these areas. If you want to be heard and understood, you’ve come to the right place, and I know that Mrs. Konopasek would be more than willing to take the time to offer care and encouragement to each student that comes her way.

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at www.shepherdscollege.org.


  1. In my book, Mrs. K. gets high marks for all the reasons cited in this blog. As the mom of a first year student, Mrs. K's demeanor and patience has constantly amazed me. God has specifically gifted her for the task she has at Shepherds. What a blessing! Debbie Stengele

  2. Thank you Debbie! Mrs. K is not only a blessing to the students, but to the staff as well. I remember as a new employee how warm Mrs. K was to me. She asked me all about my new job at Shepherds and really listened. She wasn't just feigning interest - she was sincerely interested, and she cared that I was happy in my position. She has an amazing gift!