To return to a sense of empathy and sharing, faculty and staff at Homewood-Flossmoor High School have been going through training sessions with the Front Porch Initiative that lists its specialty as helping to develop conversation, commonality and community.
Back in the day, people sat on their front porches and visited with their neighbors. Many fear the genial communications method is missing in today’s world.
To return to that sense of empathy and sharing, faculty and staff at Homewood-Flossmoor High School have been going through training sessions with the Front Porch Initiative that lists its specialty as helping to develop conversation, commonality and community.
“Nobody’s listening because we’re all moving too fast. Front Porch gives you that time to listen and share, to be heard and also to hear,” said Percy Scott of Front Porch Initiative. The program was built out of a church movement, but Scott said this outreach program doesn’t have religious overtones.
With H-F having two buildings, Front Porch Initiative “has brought them together and (given) a chance to meet others and know they have commonality between administrators, teachers” and H-F staff members, Scott explained.
During four training sessions spread throughout the school year on Teacher Institute Days, Front Porch group leaders lead H-F staff discussions focusing on four topics: beginnings, challenges, hopes and future.
“The beautiful thing is, those things can change every year,” Scott said. He said staff can see each school year as a new beginning.
“We’re trying to show empathy because in this technology age we are the most disconnected than we’ve ever been before,” Scott said. “Kids are in a classroom looking at their phones sitting right next to one another who they don’t know. Teachers are the same way. They’re talking at the kids” rather than listening to what teens are saying, he added.
Organizers offer H-F staff ways to learn about each other, and how some of these same tools can be used in the classroom to get students to share with each other and with the teacher. Scott said too often people believe the person next to them shares the same life experiences. Believing that limits one’s ability to appreciate what the other person is saying.
“Just by looking at someone you assume things,” Scott said. “Assumptions are based on your upbringing. We expose those challenges: how sometimes a challenge isn’t a challenge, it’s just interpreted that way.”
Front Porch was in talks with the district before the spring 2019 incident involving H-F students wearing black face and making rude comments at a worker at a fast food restaurant. The incident was posted on social media, outraging H-F students and staff, as well as the community. Scott said “that just reinforced the need to have something in place for social, emotional and cultural awareness.
“We’ve gotten great responses back and again teachers, just like students, they want to be heard. With over 300 staff members, everyone’s not heard all the time. For people who may not have a voice and may not be as extroverted as others, this gives them a chance to share their voice, share their opinions with their peers and be able to be heard. That’s empowering,” Scott stressed.