Lessons from the Court House

For those of you that really know me, you know that I haven’t been sitting around and letting the world happen the past year and a half (despite not writing here). The fact of the matter is that between starting a new job, being pregnant, having a child, returning to work, helping to restructure a new department, running a summer program…. I have not only been too busy to blog but also busy growing professionally. As I wrote about last year on “Stories from the Garage” the shift of schools alone was a huge lesson. Learning to navigate a new community is a lesson that requires observation, reflection, collaboration, and ability to embrace multiple perspectives to say the least.

I was in the weeds a few weeks back. Fairly overwhelmed by deadlines, struggling with the “can I get it all done and be the mom I want to be?” and as I woke early on Sunday morning I had this awful feeling. The SUMMONS… where was it? What week was I called? What court house? If you really know me, you know a few things. One of which is I don’t forget anything, esp. as it relates to bills, dates, and other number related things. But I had forgotten! So I went diving into that mail pile, crossed every finger and every toe and logged into the site.

The overwhelming feeling I had just a few minutes before was multiplying. I was called to jury duty for Monday. Jury selection began and we learned that this would be a short, tops one week, trial. So I took my seat in Juror #4 chair in the box (yes I was randomly chosen from 80 people to be put in the box), introduced myself and continued to wish myself back at school. One of my biggest take aways from this experience is that if you are a rule follower, too honest for you own good and a good global citizen you are likely going to have a hard time getting off jury duty when you are called to the box. People asked me why I didn’t respond strongly about something, come across as someone who couldn’t be fair or discuss my biases… truth be told, this judge wasn’t having it, she could smell who I am deep down, a fair and consistent person.

But once selected and told I would only miss a few days of school I accepted my fate with open arms and started to enjoy the process (well, except that my lunches cost more than my daily stipend). I listened (really listened), I learned about new laws, I put technology down for hours on end, and considered multiple perspectives. But my real learning came when we entered deliberations. Quickly, 12 individuals who had never spoken to each other in our lives got ushered into a room where we needed to stay for hours on end to talk. Very quickly i needed to observe, reflect and collaborate. I had to learn how this community could function 5 minutes into it. I had to decipher who needed to be heard and who needed direct questions. I needed to help give voice to those who weren’t as willing to speak up too. Each one of us had to navigate these relationships (kind of like being in the classroom each day) while also giving our best to those outside the room. Those who trusted us to come to a unanimous conclusion. The world is larger than the classroom but we teach there MUST translate.

If you ask why I make sure to teach cultural competence to my students I would not reply “so that they can successfully participate in jury duty”. But I will say that the experience confirmed my belief that in order to function well in this society, amongst others from different backgrounds and with different life perspectives, you must be culturally competent. Please join me in helping our students be able to observe, reflect, recognize perspectives, listen, trust in the good of others, know when and how to communicate, and BE GREAT global citizens.