Courtesy of Maria Popova at Brain Pickings, this quote from poet Mary Oliver.
It has frequently been remarked, about my own writings, that I emphasize the notion of attention. This began simply enough: to see that the way the flicker flies is greatly different from the way the swallow plays in the golden air of summer. It was my pleasure to notice such things, it was a good first step. But later, watching M. when she was taking photographs, and watching her in the darkroom, and no less watching the intensity and openness with which she dealt with friends, and strangers too, taught me what real attention is about. Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness — an empathy — was necessary if the attention was to matter.
This is the sentence I want on a t-shirt, a billboard, a big fat sign across the back of my classroom.
Attention without feeling... is only a report.
Attention without feeling is, of course, the goal of test-driven, top-down, faux-data-obsessed, close-any-community-school-that-doesn't-make-numbers reformsterism. We're supposed to give attention to students without caring. We're supposed to give attention to testing and learning and content-delivery without caring about any of it.
Attention is necessary. It's crucial. But by itself it is not enough. I can pay attention to my wife, my children, my friends, my students-- but without feeling, caring, empathy, it's an empty exercise. Listening without hearing. Looking without seeing. We can do so much better.