“People like you” can learn to listen, too. – By Sig-Senior Gabby Kopf

“Some people never listen… some people never let others talk… some people ruin the class for everyone.”

I took a breath and said, “Some people like me?”

“Gabby it’s not just you, it’s people like you.”

People like you.

For all my life I have been eager to show the world what I can do. I’ve always realized I behaved this way: a showoff, a know it all, a bulldozer, especially in class. However, until that day in Leadership class, I never realized how it could affect my classmates and friends.

Leadership II is a mandatory class for completion of Arundel’s Global Signature Program, which is a collection of classes and activities focused on community development and global citizenship. This program has been my home, a place for me to grow and learn about the world around me.

Class constitution...

That day in class we were collectively writing a syllabus to outline what we wanted to accomplish for the year. The students’ voices were finally being heard, or should I say a few students’ voices; only I and few others were actively participating in the conversation. To me, the majority of my peers appeared more or less uninterested. Our signature classes have always been a place of trust, comfort, and warmth so the cold feeling from many lively students was puzzling. Why didn’t the classroom vibe feel the same as before?

Mrs. Dziedzic stopped the lesson and asked the entire class what was wrong.
Kaitlin, a classmate who looked particularly apathetic, raised her hand and began letting out her frustrations about “some people” in the class. As I listened to her describe her feelings I felt more and more attacked. She was talking directly about me. The rest of the class joined in to address how they felt voiceless in a class that was meant to hear them. I felt so ashamed.

I couldn’t help but cry because I took that class in hopes of becoming a better leader, someone strong and successful without being overpowering, and I had become just the opposite. When I realized peoples’ perception of me differed from how I saw myself, I
knew I needed to adjust how I act in class .

When I went to Mrs. Dziedzic after class I asked, “What can I do to change?”

“Simple. Just listen.”

Just listening...

I went back to class the next day with a new mindset. I just sat and listened, but more than that, I listened for the right reasons. I found myself listening to understand, instead of just listening to reply. There was a huge difference that I never truly understood until Kaitlyn gave me the opportunity to be vulnerable, which facilitated my perceptions about what it means to be voiceless. This allowed me to become a more empathetic community member, and consequently, a better leader.

As I began to participate in class again with new purpose, I formed much stronger relationships with my friends in the class. Kaitlyn was courageous and spoke for those who felt voiceless, and no longer rolls her eyes when I speak. I stepped out of my comfort zone in order to better our class, and that laid the foundation for very strong friendships.

As I go on to form new relationships in my life; I will remember the way Kaitlyn felt about “Some People.”

Lifting us up...

Now I actively try to understand what people are saying. Being a good listener and proactive member of discussion does not only just apply to the classroom, but also as a co-worker, or a friend, or even a daughter. While there will always be situations in which our failures make us susceptible to self-doubt, it is important to make these moments generate motivation for personal growth. Moments like this inspire me to make each “failure” count.

The above guest blog was written by Gabby Kopf, a senior in the Community Development and Global Citizenship Program at Arundel High School in Maryland. She wrote it as her college admission essay…and she better get in.

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