Read Often

The Amazing Technology

How has being able to read helped your life?  We communicate daily with text messages.  Thank-you cards are written and, hopefully, received.  The Harry Potter fantasy world was gloriously entered time-after-time.  Plus, the significant other is impressed with all the new foods cooked thanks to the countless recipes on Pinterest.  Oh.  Sorry.  That was my life, not yours.

Well, how has reading benefited the greater civilization?  Violence has been reduced.  This is caused by better understanding of desires between people because reading and writing forced our languages to become standardized.  Also, political laws are easier to uphold when written and agreed upon.  Reading has also advanced technologies.  This was done by spreading knowledge across not just living people, but generations of people.  Our entertainment has benefited because novels, plays, movies, and shows are almost all written down.  Lastly, reading has been shown to benefit the well-being of people.

So, Reading Helped.  Why Should I Do It?

We love being creative.  Reading is a very creative past time.  For one, our minds create the setting and the characters — obviously the author helps a bit too.  Second, we modify or build our ideas about how the universe works by using ideas from the book.

We love feeling important and reading books can cause this feeling.  Finishing a book is satisfying.  I can’t describe the feeling wholly.  Moreover, a book does not progress unless we are engaging it.  This is the opposite of a movie which can be turned on and will play regardless if we are there to watch it or not.  Also, I’ve never experienced the Yes! feeling after finishing a movie.  Lastly, we become more important when we read to others.  This is something Abbie and I do on occasion — on car trips or before bed.

Reading Suggestions

Below is a list of books I encourage you to read.  If a link is present, then my personal reflection on the book will open.

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.

 

 

The Art of Listening

The Untaught Skill

Listening for feeling is a rarely taught skill.  Within the Common Core, listening is found.  Here is one of the standards:

Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.

I have a feeling people assume that only facts are being said.  But, how often do we say something we don’t really mean?  Or, there is a hidden meaning in what we say?

Empathetic Listening

In order to understand a person, we must understand his/her emotions.  Human behavior stems from emotions.  Throughout our lives we are told to be empathetic, or to try to put ourselves in the other’s shoes.  Empathetic listening is actively being empathetic.  But, it has a bonus!  We get to check if we are correct almost immediately.

Below is an example of empathetic listening done by a father to his son.  This is taken from Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

S: Boy, Dad, I’ve had it!  School is for the birds!

D: You’re really frustrated about school.

S: I sure am.  It’s totally impractical.  I’m not getting a thing out of it.

D: You feel like school’s not doing you any good.

S: Well, yeah.  I’m just not learning anything that’s going to help me.  I mean, look at Joe.  He’s dropped out of school and he’s working on cars.  He’s making money.  Now that’s practical.

D: You feel that Joe really has the right idea.

S: Well, I guess he does in a way.  He’s really making money now.  But in a few years, I bet he’ll probably be ticked off at himself.

Note the responses by the dad.  They contain both the content of what the son was saying and the feeling the son had.  This is a great model of how to show someone you understand them, both in content and in emotion.  Now, if the dad was wrong in either the content or emotion, the son would correct him.  That was the added bonus I mentioned earlier.  Also, compare this to how a “normal” person would respond.  A normal person would likely argue with the son as soon as leaving school was brought up, which is a non-productive dialogue.

  Why is Empathetic Listening an Important Skill?

People are far happier when they are understood.  By showing, or at least attempting to show, that you understand, the other person feels important.  This develops trust, which is required for complete honesty.  And with honesty, we get all the data we need to solve problems.  Who doesn’t like solving problems?  Boom.  Happy.

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?

Sudlow Beautification!

Last Saturday, we spent time making our school more beautiful.  A big thanks to Kelly for setting this up, her husband for being a mulch-master, Abbie for helping me plant daylilies, Claire the super student, and Claire’s mom for bringing her daughter and spreading some mulch.

Below is a picture of the sign with the daylilies planted around it.

Sudlow Beautification

Imagine if everyone spent some time helping to make their community beautiful.  Even if it is picking up an extra piece of trash on the walk to and from a car…  That thought makes me smile 🙂