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    I spent a decade of my career working in the middle of Philadelphia Eagles territory.  Eagles fans are….. unique.   They love their team, they have high expectations, they don’t put up with a lot of ….. garbage.  For the entirety of my time there the Eagles coach was Andy Reid (now of the Kansas City Chiefs).  Reid was a larger than life character, large mustache, offensive genius, successful program but always unable to get over the final competitive hurdle.  

     During Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia he and his family suffered through a great deal of media attention for the troubles of his sons who had become addicted to illegal drugs.  I remember, very naively, thinking that Reid and his wife were not “involved” parents or even perhaps that his son’s local celebrity status led to many of the issues they had.   I now have a much better understanding of addiction, how it happens, and the devastation it causes for its victims and their families.

     Reid chose to leave the Eagles, his tenure had run its course and he ended up in Kansas City.  In one of those fluff pieces that are written when a new coach comes to town a sportswriter described Reid’s office.  The most interesting item wasn’t the memorabilia, or photographs;  it was a simple index card Reid had posted with two words on it.  “Don’t Judge”.

     I use to tell teachers that the best advice I could give them had to do with relationships with and engagement of students.  The article changed my mind.  My advice, when asked, ever since that day is, “Don’t Judge”.   How exactly does that translate to practice though?

     When you don’t judge, first your day as a teacher is much more pleasant, your kids days are also more enjoyable.  Class becomes a climate of risk taking and encouragement as opposed to nerves and stress.  Furthermore, because you aren’t trying to change behaviors to personal preferences you end up doing a lot more listening.  The more you listen the more you understand your kids, your community and your colleagues.  The more you listen the more you can empathize and role model being empathetic.

       When you don’t judge you also work to create an equitable and balanced classroom climate where all cultures are welcome and none receive preferential treatment.  By not judging you are giving yourself permission simply to teach and to interact; and for that you will be grateful.

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