Have a Voice

Imagine a world where we truly could be like Sara Bareilles wants us to be.

What would the world be like?  I think it would be full of action, full of honesty, full of development, and, dare I say it, full of smiles!  But, that isn’t how the world is.

What keeps us from being brave?  Our fear keeps us from doing a lot.  We fear that we may hurt ourselves by exposing a dark secret or by looking stupid in front of others.  We fear that we may hurt others.  People will think that we think they are stupid or that we don’t deeply care for them.

This post is meant to help us practice being brave.  I hope to help with two mindset changes: 1) A fear of the world full of action, honesty, development and smiles not existing if we don’t speak up and have important conversations; and 2) A mental toolbox to help us have important conversations.  I wanted to share what I found most useful from my reading the book Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler.

Tools for a Crucial Conversation

First, knowing what a Crucial Conversation is will be helpful.  Think of any time when you felt nervous to speak.  Chances are you were in a situation suited for a Crucial Conversation.  Here is the wordy definition in case the emotional one didn’t work: A Crucial Conversation occurs during moments of high emotion, high stakes, and (potentially) opposing opinions.  As a general example, telling a friend or family member to get their act together would be considered a crucial conversation.

Below are the tools which I found most useful.

Look for signs of being uncomfortable, then start the conversation

Here are some common signs.

  • Rapidly beating heart
  • Wanting to move away and be alone
  • Thinking the other person is stupid
  • Wanting to hit something

Once the signs are realized, saying, “I am uncomfortable,” is a way to start the conversation.

Create Safety with Others

Be upfront about the importance of the conversation.  Share the goal of the conversation with the other person.  This helps to avoid letting the goal suddenly switch to winning.  Usually, at least one of the goals is to understand what the other person thinks.  Coming from the angle of trying-to-understand is much safer than the angle of trying-to-change.

On a similar note, ask for the other’s help or opinion.  People will need to be reminded that the conversation isn’t meant to be an attack.  When others cause us to question ourselves, we become naturally defensive.  Therefore, being able to be an empathetic listener will also help to consistently create safety.

State Objective Facts

Compare the following two comments.

“You are a weak, dispassionate, and lazy coward while managing your classroom.”

“Students keep talking after the quiet-down signal.  Meanwhile, you sit straight-faced for about a minute after giving the signal.  No discussion takes place about the students’ inappropriate behavior takes place afterward.”

Both comments would be hard to hear, but the first will likely cause a much stronger defensive act than the second.  If we want to help, then we must avoid using emotionally charged phrases.  Plus, we can’t solve a puzzle without first laying out the pieces.  Using objective facts accomplishes this.

End the Conversation with a Clear Resolution

What actions will take place now?  What criteria will be used to evaluate the next performance?  How have your views or opinions changed due to the conversation?

Ending the conversation by answering one or a few of these questions will help ensure the conversation was meaningful to have.

Imagine a World Without Crucial Conversations

What if you never said, “Hello,” to your partner?

What if you never stood up for the kid being bullied?

What if you never said, “I love you”?

Remember how good it felt after those conversations.  That good feeling is what life would be missing.  I hope we can fear the losing of that good feeling.  If we truly do fear it, then we will all act bravely.

 

 

Reflecting on the School Year

1.  What are some things you accomplished this year that you are proud of?

  • Science fair
  • 8th grade projects
  • Overall better rapport with students
  • 6th grade flood projects
  • Began thinking of ways for my students to impact the community

2.  What is something you tried in your classroom this year for the first time? How did it go?

Large scale 8th grade project –

Overall, it went quite well.  The students were able to research something which they were passionate about.  Learning happens willingly when personal interest is involved.  The organization of the project was poor.  I set a goal to make it happen without planning how it would happen.  But, we got it done!

3.  What is something you found particularly frustrating this year?

My “it could always be better” attitude.  I struggled at staying happy throughout the year.

4.  Which student in your class do you think showed the most improvement? Why do you think this student did so well?

V. L. had motivation issues at the beginning of the year and had to be forced to come in by her parents.  By the end of the year, she was willing to attempt the assignments, but she still struggled.  I think the support she received both at home and from me helped.

5.  What is something you would change about this year if you could?

My classroom management is not consistent.  I want to have boundaries set and spend more time with the students which disrupt the learning.

6.  What is one way that you grew professionally this year?

I focus more on organization and planning.  Huge differences stemmed from it, including lower stress!

7.  Who among your colleagues was the most helpful to you?

K. D-J.  She would always lend her ear to me and make suggestions.  She even met with me over winter break to discuss teaching.

8.  What has caused you the most stress this year?

The feeling that the students didn’t appreciate my lessons.  I must remember that as students, school is not normally their highest priority.

9.  When was a time this year when you felt joyful and/or inspired about the work that you do?

Many students would trust me to know the problems which are occurring to them.  Having that type of bond caused me to believe I was making a positive impact on these students.

10.  What do you hope your students remember most about you as a teacher?

I hope they remember my attempts at acting compassionately and the struggles at living that way.

11.  In what ways were you helpful to your colleagues this year?

I was the recorder on our data team.  I also participated in staff development and shared my lessons with the other 8th grade science teacher.  I also greeted most everyone with a smile, which is always a plus!

12.  What was the most valuable thing you learned this year?

Start with “Why.”  Why should the students learn this?  What impact will it make?  Without a reason, there will be lack of effort.

13.  What was the biggest mistake you made this year? How can you avoid making the same mistake in the future?

Letting up on my classroom management.  I must set a system up.  A good place to start would be brainstorming ways the students disrupted the learning in my classroom this year.

14.  What is something you did this year that went better than you thought it would?

The 8th grade poster project in the library went much better than expected.

15.  What part of the school day is your favorite? Why?

My 6th period class was my favorite class.  The students were kind, fun, and willing to work.  We had fun together.

16.  What were your biggest organizational challenges this year?

The 8th grade project.  I must begin putting things on a calendar to help plan out large projects.

17.  Who was your most challenging student? Why?

J. G. constantly pushed my buttons.  She would show up late from lunch, talk back, and copy other students’ work.  I think a lack of support all around has caused her to act very selfishly.

18.  In what ways did you change the lives of your students this year?

I was told my class had great hands-on activities.  Hooray!  Students were generally excited to be in my class and I was able to model how to be yourself.

19.  Pretend that you get to set your own salary for this past year based on the job that you did. How much do you feel that you earned (the number you come up with should be in no way based on your current salary – rather, come up with a number that truly reflects how you should be compensated for your work this year)?

45,000

20.  Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to be a teacher if you could go back in time and make the choice again? If the answer is “no,” is there a way for you to choose a different path now?

I think I am starting to like teaching more and more.  There are more positive memories than negative now.  I thnk I would like to stay a teacher.

 

Value Mind Map – Community – May 11th – 17th

I struggled at maintaining this map over the course of the week.  I usually like to think about community because my job is to help improve it.  But, I had a rough week teaching.  My expectations got the better of me.  The thought, “It’s too late,” keeps popping into my mind.  I don’t act to fix my classroom management problems.

Anyway, below is my mind map from the last week.

community mindmap

You will see some positives.  For example, I participated in Abbie’s mother’s day celebrations and wishing people good morning.  I normally don’t wish others good morning, so that was a win.  I shouldn’t say that.  I wish some good morning, but this time I went out of my way to do it.  Hooray!

Next week, I plan on focusing on my value of Mindfulness.

Value Mind Map – Compassion – May 4th – 10th

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson

Compassion.  The art of reducing suffering.  I think the hardest part about compassion is realizing the long-term effects.  Lying can relieve you immediately, yet cause you greater suffering later on.  It is difficult to swallow the fact that sometimes compassion is causing pain now in order to reduce future pain.  To be compassionate, we must be brave.  Brave enough to have the difficult conversations.  Brave enough to risk looking like a fool.  Brave enough to say no to oneself.  Compassion is one of the most difficult arts to master…

Below is my mind map of compassion this week.

Compassion Mind Map

 

When I first think of compassion, I think of curing the sick or feeding the hungry.  Luckily, I do not encounter those pains frequently in my life.  This forced me to think of other types of suffering.  I helped Abbie leave her comfort zone by being her accountability partner.  I helped myself stop thinking about the negatives of my 8th grade project by setting up positive questions to guide my reflection of the experience.  Roz was taken to the vet and checked over.  Sadly, she has lost some teeth and I am attempting to set up a brushing regimen to, hopefully, save the rest of her teeth.  I also apologized to a student after pushing him back into my classroom, which helped reduce my suffering at least.  Hopefully his suffering too.

Once we slow down and think about life, almost everything we do is to avoid some type of suffering.  We should be grateful whenever our suffering is solely boredom.  Being sick or starving are much worse alternatives!

Something that just popped into my head is an easy way to live a compassionate life.  Continuously ask the following question: How can I help my community?  You can change community to myself, my friends, my family, or my coworkers.  But, if you are helping, then you are acting compassionately.

Next week, we will be focusing on community.  What will you do to help our community?

Value Mind Map – Well-being – April 27th – May 3rd

well being

Take care of your body!  It’s your personal vehicle, but when it hurts so do you.  This past week, Abbie and I decided to focus on Well-being, specifically physical Well-being.  We sometimes forget to spend some time taking care of ourselves in our very busy world.

What did I learn by focusing on Well-being this past week?  We should all try to make our workouts fun.  On Friday, Abbie and I passed the ball around and tried to juggle it between us.  We also played keep away for a bit.  What a fun, simple game!  Saturday was spent beautifying Sudlow.  Carrying mulch, digging holes, and picking up trash is quite a workout.  I know that doesn’t sound like fun, but doing it with people is!  I should have taken a picture of that.  My next workout was an example of a less fun workout, which was running 3 miles.  But, that was followed with playing tennis with Abbie.  Running by myself hasn’t been fun, but I think I would benefit from changing my views on it.  Maybe viewing it as a personal challenge would help.  I am able to get through tough times without relying on others all the time.  Anything can be fun if the mindset is angled that way…

Speaking of that run, I learned to be encouraging to others.  For example, there was a man edging his sidewalk.  I told him it looked good and he responded cheerily.  Simple acts of kindness go a long way.  I don’t know what it did for him, but I had a short burst of energy during my run after I shared my thoughts with him.

I had a loss in terms of Well-being.  I ate Hardees.  And I had a Pepsi.  When I struggle, I comfort myself with food.  The school week wasn’t going as planned, so I was mentally beat up and wanting comfort.  I must replace that habit with something more beneficial, such as dancing to music while preparing a healthier meal!  Oh the joys of dancing!

If you look at the picture, you’ll notice I used x‘s  to indicate something not supporting my value.  I think admitting the faults is a good thing, as long as you grow from them.  I may start including some of the ways I didn’t act toward the value in an attempt to better understand who I am as a person.

Create to know!  What have you created lately?  Next week I’ll be creating a Mind Map around our value of Compassion, which is the art of reducing suffering.