Recently we took a group of 10 Harbour School students to visit two state legislators. One was a State Senator and the other was the Speaker of the House of Delegates. These people represented the districts in which some of the students lived.
One person, the State Senator, invited the kids into her office. She had prepared folders with information about the State Legislature and about her role in it. She gave each of us State Legislature lapel pins and her business card. She talked with the kids about what she did and about what they could do to advance their interests. Then she listened while the students asked questions or told her about their school and why it met their special learning needs. She made comments on what the students said; the comments indicated she was listening and hearing them.
Then we crossed the street to the State House where the office of the Speaker of the House of Delegates is located. We waited a few minutes in a beautiful waiting room. The Speaker came in, introduced himself and suggested we adjourn to the House of Delegates assembly room. The students were pleased to sit in the chairs of delegates. The Speaker talked about the wonderful history of the building and about the just over 100 delegates who meet there for the 90 day session. Some students asked the Speaker questions about himself. He answered them. One student spoke about her school and why it was important to her. He thanked her and said she had done a good job of presentation. After about 15 minutes we had a photo op and then left.
On the way back to school I asked some of the students what they thought about the experience. They all loved it. However, they also noticed the difference between the two legislators. As the students said, the Senator really listened to us and she seemed interested in us and our school. They also said the Speaker seemed very busy and didn't really act like he had time for us.
It is important to note that these kids all have learning challenges. They all go to a special school. They wanted to talk about their school and what it has meant to them. Unfortunately only one of the two legislators had the time or interest to hear. The students got it dead right and they clearly knew who had the time for them.
You can't fool a kid.