This past weekend we visited a favorite yearly event known as the Great Minnesota Get-Together – otherwise known as the Minnesota State Fair. It would be an understatement to say there were a lot of people there – 254,000 to be exact.
The day didn’t start out with that many people – in fact, we started the day at a leisurely pace, enjoying a marvelous scone for breakfast while chatting with some lovely folks from North Dakota. We took time to drink some coffee and hear about their family while we waited for some friends to join us. We met the kids who were working and thanked them for their great service and noted how much busier they were as we were leaving.
As the day progressed, the lines got longer, the crowds grew bigger, and the leisurely pace we started at became a fight to cross the street in the sea of humanity!
Even in the large crowds, we still spotted people we knew – a former neighbor, a college friend, a former student, and a distant cousin. But it was much more difficult to notice individual people in the sea of faces, and harder yet to make our way to where they were for a quick chat to catch up. At times, it felt much like passing time in a large school hallway.
In schools, we work with large groups of people – students and adults. We become focused on keeping people moving in the right direction, forming orderly lines to keep systems working and schedules on time, and we see many faces in front of us during the course of the day. It is easy to become more focused on the crowds rather than the faces in the crowd.
If I wouldn’t have looked for faces, I would have missed seeing our neighbor, Nicole, and her two children – one named after my son. I wouldn’t have known Gracie, a high school junior who wants to work with children – I would have hired her right there she was so great with people. I would have missed the whole point of an event like a state fair – a great get-together with people who want to have a collective experience of seeing interesting things, running into friends and family, and eating more food than you should – on a stick.
As we continue to work with students and adults in large numbers, it will be more important than ever to notice the faces in the crowds – not just the crowds. Every adult needs to understand the importance of knowing our children as individuals, and treating them that way. Every “good morning” every “I’m so glad to see you” needs to help people feel recognized and valued as they enter our schools. Even in a large group of people, everyone can feel a sense of belonging to a shared experience – the great get-together of Lincoln Public Schools.
Talk about this with the people you work with, and for a great tool to illustrate the point, check out this video from the Atlanta Speech School.