Portrait of a Graduate Administrator Spotlight: Empathetic - GIS Principal Tracie Lees
March 15, 2023
In the spring of 2022, I had the opportunity to take the Gallup CliftonStrengths® Assessment to measure my natural patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. The areas that were identified as my top strengths included Empathy, Positivity, and Individualization. As I reflected upon my profile, I considered my experiences, habits, beliefs, and most importantly, my personal and professional relationships and how they relate to my “strengths”. In particular, I examined closely the definition of “empathy” from the assessment:
Often you sense the moods of individuals without them having to say a word. As a result, you can ask questions and broach topics with people who are naturally reserved, timid, or shy. Driven by your talents, you encourage people to express their innermost thoughts and feelings, and you refrain from judging them. You like knowing that others depend on you to listen. Moreover, you have noticed that individuals come to you for advice. Your ability to find solutions contributes to your optimistic attitude. You often notice individuals who are defeated by life’s challenges. You want to help them better cope with their difficulties. When you can encourage people to take action, they are apt to feel much better about themselves and life in general.
Throughout my years as an educator, I have found that all children and young adults are the same in one essential way – they want to be listened to, understood, and supported. They all need someone who not only hears them but someone who can truly empathize with them. While I loved being a classroom teacher, I knew that I wanted to use my ability to empathize with students, colleagues, and families on a broader level. When asked how I like being a principal (and yes, there are challenges and difficult moments), I am able to emphatically respond, “I love what I do!” No, it’s not because of academics that I am so passionate about my role; rather, it is simply because I spend my time with others and am able to provide the emotional support that we all need. Students will stop by the office to see if I am available or will find me in the hallway or cafeteria because they just need to be listened to and understood. This is what gives me meaning and purpose. This is my “why”.
One of my favorite quotes (as a former high school English teacher I do indeed have favorite quotes) is from Pablo Picasso who once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Every encounter, interaction, and experience I have with a child is my opportunity to share, or give away, my gift – the gift of empathy.