Obviously, as many people in the world are doing, I am currently thinking about peace quite a bit. Without trying to get into an argument with anyone, I wanted to share a quote I used in a training with teachers in Texas last week. No political agenda intended, I just read the words above and thought, "This is what teachers (probably all of us, to be quite honest) need to hear, believe, and act on right now." If we believe we can do one little thing to keep/maintain/create peace, and everyone else believes they can do the same, maybe our generation could be remembered for goodness and peace. Does anyone else feel this way?
So, as most all of you know, I believe communication is one of the biggest parts of that. I may have said, "How we say things makes all the difference in the world" a couple of hundred thousand times (maybe a teeny-tiny exaggeration)
Here are some recent examples of peace and communication (or lack of) I have experienced:
1. While in Bogotá, Colombia this week, my dear driver and mi amigo nuevo, Julio, and I were talking about all of the wars, attacks, and hatred going on in the world right now. I asked him (in Spanish, of course---after all, I am practicing the best I can) why he thought people attacked innocent people. His answer was "envy". I asked him to explain. He said he thought people attacked (like 9/11, hate attacks, terrorist groups, etc.) because they envied the peace and happiness that others experienced. He believed negative people are envious of happy people. I had to think about that, but I do agree, in part, that toxicity and poison don't respond well to happiness and peace. I have witnessed that in schools and districts and states and countries.
2. While waiting for my midnight flight from Bogotá back to USA on Friday night, we all saw that the flight was going to be delayed a bit (not by much, but enough that people started wondering why). Everyone around me who was lined up (speaking Spanish or English or some other language) to board the flight was asking, "Why?" "Por que?" aloud. Not a word from the gate agents. Four gate agents were at the gate, laughing and talking to one another (at least they were happy, right?), but not talking to us at all. Passengers started to get really frustrated. You could sense the tension. After a few minutes of this, I decided to take one little tiny portion of action. I stepped to the gate and said, "Excuse me, I know you may not realize it, but there are a bunch of us who are wondering when we are going to board, as we were supposed to board almost 30 minutes ago. Would it be possible to simply announce when you think we might board, so everyone doesn't get so frustrated?" They nodded and an announcement was quickly made. You could almost feel a palpable sense of relief from the passengers. What people really wanted to keep them from getting up in arms was some communication. Without it, the frustration would have grown...and grown...and grown. But sometimes, we just stand by and complain until we burst with frustration and then there is tension everywhere. I'm working on not letting that happen to me.
3. In one area I was recently working, I conducted a keynote on giving teachers the support they need to grow in their practice (which was extremely well-received), then I worked with smaller groups over the next couple of days on some practices that school leaders and coaches could do to help their teachers. While I had given everyone expectations and guidelines about how we would be engaging in conversation among ourselves (not just me talking AT them) and even modeled how they might encourage a more shy participant to speak up ("What do you think, Sonia?" etc.), just like we want students to do, one man sat in the last row of tables, writing constantly but not in the "workbook" we were using. At one point, I went back, knelt down and asked, "How are you doing?" He smiled and said, "I'm fine." I asked, "How can I help you engage in the group?" He said, "I'm doing the work." Okay, but....ummmmm....you're not (notice I said this to myself but not to him). Later, he began asking aggressive types of questions, to which people around him looked down but did not say things I had modeled, like, "While I understand Ray feels _______, I see it differently, and I believe _______." I found out later that this type of "bullying" (the word that was said to me by several participants) was simply accepted and not counter-acted.
I'm not positive that it was peaceful, but at the end of the day, I thanked everyone for coming, and I noted my email address on the slide in case anyone wanted to ask me questions privately. I then had them read the quote by R.F. Kennedy, and I proposed the following: If we are always looking for problems, we will have no trouble finding them. After all, they are everywhere!!!! We barely have to look for them. The hardest part is searching for solutions----in education, in life, etc. But the searching and finding the good in what we do, especially if done together, is so worth the effort. My hope and fervent prayer is that every one out there that is drowning in negativity find one simple act they can do to make a change for the better.
I believe in solutions. I believe in communication. And, above all, I believe in peace.
I am away from home for work for two weeks. (whine, whine, right?) As much as I miss Dave and the pups, I am finding some incredible truths in my travels through Texas and Bogotà, Colombia (don't try to make a connection--it is simply my work schedule). In Brownsville, Texas, we were watching a video of a teacher talking about her work with her 4th grade students, and the participant said, "It's like the more she loves what she is teaching, the more the students love the learning." I may or may not have done a little happy dance. I think that statement is so important---we have to be careful, though, to not expect that JUST because we love what we are teaching, the kids will love it, too. After all, if I pontificate or lecture minutes upon minutes about a subject and don't give students a chance to process the information for themselves, then all I have done is a diatribe, right? Not unlike doing a tap-dance routine in front of a group and hoping they like it. Nope, that is not enough.
Instead, I have to make sure that the students (or adult participants) have a change to process the information (I say "muzshel" their information around, but I can't find that word anywhere so it must be a Shellyism to mean "mix or merge"). How do we process the information?
1. We first need to do this individually. After all, if I don't have time to think about what I just heard or read, I won't have my own thoughts to share. So, we ask our students to write something down (either specific like "Write one way you could use this in your learning of fractions?" or "Write one thought you are having so far about what we are learning.")
2. Next, we can combine thoughts with pairs or trios. I get asked sometimes, "Why in pairs or trios? Why not share with the whole table (of 5 or 6 or 8, etc.)?" Think about that for a moment. What I tell groups or classes is "You get more bang for your buck if you talk in pairs first. Each person gets more talk time. Also, it is sometimes safer for people to share in smaller groups first". I advise having norms or expectations for sharing. What good does it do if Partner A says their thought then Partner B says their part, then they both look at the teacher like, "We're done. What next?" (Quit laughing. You know this has happened to you before, on either end). The norm I say is, "I want to hear, as I walk around and lurk and listen, things like, "I said something similar but I also thought......" or "Hmmm....I didn't quite see it like that. I thought......." The point is we are truly listening to one another.
3. THEN, we can share in larger group discussion. There are many, many ways to do this, but it takes consensus first and time to develop that consensus. Maybe groups write down their top three thoughts. Maybe one person is appointed to be the "sharer-outer", as my colleague, Peggy, says. Maybe you call on tables randomly. Maybe, if the groups aren't so large, they partner up with another group to share their thinking.
No matter the process, we need to expect that we will learn something from one another in the procedure.
I hope to never quit learning. I learn so much from my own participants, every single time I work. In Bogota, Colombia, even more, maybe, as I am teaching them about teaching, but they are teaching me about language and culture and so much more.
Look for opportunities to learn from one another today. Don't close your mind off---just because you think you already know what you want to know about a topic (educationally, politically, relationally, etc.) You might just find that you have opened your mind to a whole new world.
I am leaving today for two weeks on the road for work (to my homeland of Texas and then on to Bogota', Colombia) for two weeks (yes, packing was a bear) then home for one day then back on the road for another week. At the airport in Tucson, as we were waiting to board, the sun was coming up and directly shining in the eyes of those lining up for the boarding process. All of a sudden, I noticed I was not blinded any longer. I looked up to see a gentleman smiling at me (not in a creepy way, mind you). He said, "I'm tall, I'm fat and I make a good block from the sun". I laughed, told him "thank you" and told him that he had done his good deed for the day so he could take it easy the rest of the day. He said, "Oh Lawd" (yes, he did), "I have a lot of making up to do. One a day won't do it." We both laughed.
On the plane, I started thinking (and napping, but mostly thinking) about the times the little things have mattered---to me, to others around me, etc. The first one that came to mind was about post-it notes. Yep, you read it correctly.
Now, first of all, my colleagues can attest that, for teaching, post-it notes might be one of the best inventions ever known to man. In fact, I should have invested in post-it notes early on. But that's beside the point (kind of). I was getting ready to teach a group of adult participants a couple of years ago, and I was making sure all the supplies were ready in the center of each table (those who don't teach, hang in there. This is just we teachers do) before the day began. One early participant saw me struggling to open the post-it note packages and heard me remark how my nails don't love post-it note packages. She came over, took the post it notes from me, bent the pack and the plastic popped open (and off). I think I started singing "It's a miracle" (I would appreciate it if you do not judge my inner Barry Manilow. ) Wait, what? I have been picking those silly square packages open for years and pop! she opened it with one squeeze and bend. Fast forward to this week when I was teaching a phenomenal group of teachers in Tucson. One participant was stroking my ego (unprovoked, I might add) by saying, "This is so great---I am sick of going to workshops where I learn nothing!!" I told them that old chestnut about always being able to pick up one new trick, even if it is tiny. I took a minute to tell them about the post-it note scenario, and a collective "Wow!" and "Ahh!" went up in the crowd. I warned them that I would track them down if they wrote on the evaluation "The best thing I learned today was about how to open post-it notes!". We all enjoyed a laugh before getting back to work.
Another seemingly little thing I have learned in traveling so much was from Laura Lipton, one of my dear mentors in Learning Focused Supervision. She has taught me so much, but one of the tricks of the trade from just simply traveling so much has saved my packing (and therefore my back). She suggested, for a three-day training, I pack one color of outfits (I do all black, all gray, or all brown) and then add scarves, jewelry, etc. to dress up the outfits with a bundle of color. Love it!!!
Her partner-in-crime (not really crime, please don't start any fake news), Bruce Wellman, also taught me a pretty cool move that works for students and participants of all ages. When I am in front of the room, about to give directions, I ring my chime (or raise my hand, or whatever other signal I use to get attention), and I begin my directions once everyone is listening (or at least acting like they are). :) I have done that for years. But, what do you do when someone begins talking while you are in the middle of your directions, thereby distracting people around them and you, as well? (and that takes very little for a presenter like me who can get distracted easily) Bruce said to begin another sentence and simply interrupt yourself during a multi-syllabic word. For example, I want to say, "Many of you addressed the issue of constructivism in your depictions of engagement" but Talky McTalkster begins saying something right after I start my sentence. I then do this, "Many of you addressed the issue of construc....." -stop talking altogether, pause, and look down (to avoid the very tempting action of staring at Talky)...the talking stops and I begin that word again and finish the sentence. I have tested this out a few times and every time, it works like Harry Houdini magic (well, I don't disappear but you get the reference).
What are the little things that work for you or make your life better/easier? Please share them with me!! I am going to be busy cracking open a few post-it note packages but can't wait to hear your responses!!