The Power of Listening

heart-love-romance-valentine-mediumBy Sabrina Bartels

Middle school counselors had a hero in their midst this past week. Sycamore Middle School’s counselor, Molly Hudgens, made headlines when she was able to prevent a student from going on a shooting rampage.

Last week, a 14-year-old student entered the counseling office and spoke with Hudgens. As the conversation went on, Hudgens asked the student if he had a gun. He showed her the gun in his waistband. By the end of their 45-minute conversation, the student surrendered the weapon to Hudgens.

The whole story is simply amazing, but then came this quote from the sheriff: “He advised Ms. Hudgens he was going to kill some teachers and a police officer and not students. He came to her because he indicated she would be the only one to talk him out of it.”

This quote was so amazingly powerful for me. Here was a student with a lot on his mind, not unlike many middle school students. Here was a student who was going to act impulsively, again, much like other middle school students. But instead of going down a path that could’ve ended with a lot of lost lives, he went to the counselor. And that made all the difference.

I thought about this as I drove up north this weekend. Some days, I come home feeling like a failure. Those are the days when I wasn’t able to find a perfect solution to “fix” the problems that my students are encountering. If I had my way, I would have a magic wand that would automatically solve all my students’ worries, concerns, behaviors, and fears. All of my students would have homes to live in, food to eat, and friends who treat them well. No kid would be abused, neglected, bullied, or abandoned. But through this story, I realized that I don’t always need the perfect solution. Just because I can’t perfectly solve their problems doesn’t mean that I’m failing them as a counselor.

Molly Hudgens did an amazing thing. She listened. She empathized. She did all of the things we learned both through grad school and through real-life experience. But most importantly, she earned this student’s trust and respect. It was through this simple act (though it’s not necessarily easy to do this!) that she was able to prevent tragedy.

To me, this demonstrates the true power and strength of the relationships we create every single day. The little things that we may take for granted – all of the smiles and hugs and chats that we have with our students every single day – may be the exact things that make us heroes to our students. Those are the things our students treasure. Those are the things that make the difference.

Here’s to Molly Hudgens, a hero among school counselors! To read about her experience, click here.

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