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Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Past is a Teacher

Recently a blast from the past haunted me. Years ago I had a troubling experience, and one of the people who caused that terrible event came into my purview. I had an immediate negative and frightened reaction. Probably a bit of PTSS: Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

After seeing this person again in what was a harmless situation, I thought about the fear and worry he incited in me. I also thought about what to do when I see this person again. I realized that the best way to deal with this is to allow that past experience to be a good teacher and move forward with that new learning.

In the situation I refer to, in my opinion, the individual acted without ethics, care, knowledge, courage or sensitivity. It was a cruel experience, and an experience I was not prepared for. But now I know that there are many ways to react to situations that are cruel and worrisome, but not physically dangerous.

First of all, it's important to know who you are and what you stand for. The better we know ourselves, the better we'll be able to represent ourselves with humility, strength and dignity.

Next, when verbally attacked, it's important to listen and ask clarifying questions with respect. There's typically no need to rush to a defense or response and it's better to ask as many questions as you need to ask to best understand the situation. Situations like the one I faced, in hindsight, lacked clarity--people, like the person I saw, really didn't even know what they were doing or why. The use of questioning would have brought the details of the situation to light for all.

If possible, the following step, is to create a process for peace--a way to come to common ground and understanding.

I'm sure I'll meet with angry, discontented individuals again. I'm sure that I'll be threatened, ridiculed and demeaned again too. What I hope will be different will be my level of confidence to represent myself well, diffuse the disrespectful individual by seeking clarity in respectful ways, and forge peaceful paths for next steps.

Specifically questions like this can help.

  • I note that you are very upset, can you tell me why?
  • What can I do now to help you with this situation--what will help you?
  • Can you explain your point of view more?
  • I don't understand that detail well, can you tell me more about it?
  • Why or what would make you think that?
  • If you were in my shoes, what would you do?
  • Is there anything I can say to help you understand my point of view more or better?
Questioning is a very helpful technique when it comes to finding common ground. Patience and taking your time helps too. And, making time to carefully outline your point of view is needed as well. It may be that you politely leave the meeting to give yourself tie to think alone or with comrades to figure out exactly where you stand in the situation.

Past troubling events from the past can be great teachers for the future if we're willing to take the time to reflect on the event and recognize the inherent lessons. 

Is Advocacy Natural?

Little children rarely don't advocate for themselves. When they want something, they let you know. So I would say that advocating for what we need and want is a natural instinct. Yet, as we get older, do we lose that instinct?

An educator friend who works in a system other than mine confided in me that at a recent meeting her colleagues quietly disagreed with a directive, but none of them would advocate for their opinion. The educators who stayed silent had close to many, many years of teaching experience and are known to be both dedicated and successful teachers. The directives were sent by educators with much less time teaching young children. So weren't the educated, experienced educators willing to speak up in the face of directives they found ill-directed? Did they lose their instinct, will or courage to advocate? Did they care? Had they developed their advocacy over time?

I think that many educators may fear advocacy. Others don't know how to advocate, and still more may not recognize the value of speaking up for small matters and how those small matters affect children's overall educational experience. In this situation it was a couple of directives, but there will be a trickle down effect, and these relatively small in scope directives will impact the entire teaching/learning program in ways that could be problematic or more likely stand in the way of good progress and development.

In the days ahead I'll be thinking more about advocacy including how and when people advocate and why that matters. I'll also look to good process and ways to encourage advocacy when it comes to issues, ideas and practice that greatly affect the work we do to uplift student success and positive experiences in school.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Where are you headed in these complex times?

Friedman's book, Thank You for Being Late, demonstrates that the world is changing at a rapid clip, and my reaction to that is how can we forward these changes in humane, peaceful and Earth-friendly ways.

First, we have to be mindful of our own roles in this change however small. It's all of our small actions that add up to good effort, and we all know that bringing humanity, peace and an Earth-friendly response to our small actions is often the most challenging work we do.

Next, we have to work in collaboration with others to make meaningful, positive development in our spheres of work and influence. How can we positively work with others to affect our communities and organizations? For me this means finding ways to work with other educators to develop and improve the work we do. It's important to discern who has what skills, interests and passions as we work together. Often our best work is compromised because we assign wrong roles to people. At other times the obstacles are lack of good process, efficiency rather than efficacy, and no clear vision or mission. Whatever the case may be, it's important to note your role on the teams you work with and collaborate to do the good work possible.

Then, it's integral that we speak up about what matters. Many make fun of my @realdonaldtrump tweets, yet I often see the words I tweet, repeated. If we sit back and don't speak up, we'll certainly never be heard. If we respectfully speak up with good questions, insights and ideas, guess what, those questions might be answered, insights shared and ideas developed. I often respond to insights, questions and ideas on Twitter by embedding that good think into my daily work and effort to teach children well. I love the global cross-section of wonderful thinkers and doers represented on Twitter and other social media and find that those streams of thought deepen and develop what I can do in my own spheres. So don't be shy about speaking up--it's likely there are those ready to listen and embrace who you are and the experiences/think you have to offer.

These are complex times, but that doesn't mean we should simply sit back and let it happen. Instead we have to up our game in this modern age and look for ways to be active citizens both at home and in our greater circles. That matters.