A Listening Lesson
At the other end of the table was their principal. He asked the boy to introduce him to me. (The principal and I had already met three hours ago, but he recognized this teaching moment and took it.) The boy made a lovely introduction, and I shook hands with the principal, now standing, for the second time this morning. The boy next to the principal had already been in a conversation with him, and the conversation now continued.
“Now, as I was saying, boys, the man did not say black skin doesn’t matter. That wasn’t his meaning. He said--
“But Jerome said…”
“Wait. I wasn’t finished. You see, here’s the problem. Everybody has something to say. But nobody wants to listen to the other fellow. You have to listen to the other person until they finish, and you’ve got to understand their meaning. If you didn’t get their meaning, ask them. But let him finish speaking. Folks just jump in on the other guy making an argument where there isn’t one. Do you understand me?”
“Okay, then let’s start over. The man didn’t say black color doesn’t matter. What he said was that when government is functioning the way it’s supposed to do, nobody’s color matters because we’re treated the same, as all Americans should be. You see? That’s a lot different meaning isn’t it? We’ve got to listen.”
The principal put up his hand to stop the words. “Jerome is entitled to his opinion. But, so are you. So what I want you to do, all of you, I want you to practice listening to persons speaking until they’re finished, and understand their meaning. Then you make your own opinion. Don’t let other people make your opinion for you. But you have to listen first. What did we learn about government on voting day? What did President Lincoln say?”
“Government is by the people and for the people?”
He applauded and nodded with a big smile. “And you are those people! And one more thing. The man is addressed as President-Elect Trump. He’s not President Trump until he takes the oath of office. And he’s not called Trump. That’s disrespectful to the Office of the Presidency. He’s President-Elect Trump.”
“Okay, now get along to class. Your teachers will take away my recess for making you late to class.” He laughed and pressed his hand on their small shoulders and shook hands with them, man-to-man.
This is a small school, an old brick building in a depressed neighborhood. But they have a principal who visits their homes to talk to their parents, who mentors and models for them citizenship, manners, and self-respect. He gives them his time; they know he cares. They know the importance of their education; they want to become a man like him. Advantage. Priceless.