Guest post by By Chad Dumas, Educational Consultant, Author, Trainer, and Collaborator
Author of Let’s Put the C in PLC: A Practical Guide for School Leaders and An Action Guide to Put the C in PLC: Reflecting and Doing
What Do We Want?
Some of my recent travels and interactions have left me pondering this question: What do we want?
And I’m not talking about some philosophical question about the meaning of existence, or some existential query. I’m thinking about practical, day-to-day desires about our work as educators (and, quite frankly, more broadly, as people).
It seems to me that we all want the same thing. Teachers want to work in meaningful teams that improve their practice. Principals want to support staff in doing this work. Central office leaders want to support principals and teachers. So where’s the disconnect?
Teachers tell me that they want to collaborate, but their administrators (at whatever level) just don’t support collaboration.
Principals in those same schools share with me how their district administrators just don’t understand collaboration and seem to put up roadblocks. Or how their teachers would rather shut their classroom door and do their own thing.
And, of course, district administrators tell me that they just can’t get their principals or teachers to engage in meaningful collaboration
What’s going on? Why can’t we see each other’s perspective? What’s getting in the way?
As you can imagine (or maybe experience!), this disconnect leads to a great deal of frustration.
I believe (and have experienced) that all of us want what is best for kids.
I believe (and have experienced) that we want our work and lives to be meaningful.
And I believe (and have experienced) that working together in meaningful ways builds momentum toward accomplishing both.
Unfortunately, the mechanics of what we are doing seem to be getting in the way.
Those familiar with me and my work know well that I believe a significant part of the solution to the problems we face is listening. Whether it be this problem or most any other issue, we too often fail to see each other’s point of view.
Might we take a good pause when someone else is sharing their perspective? Maybe a deep breath to create some “distance” between their comment and our thinking? Maybe a glance to the side to ponder what another is sharing?
Might we paraphrase what the other person is telling us? Maybe consider the emotion with which they are sharing, in addition to the content? Maybe seek to truly understand before trying to be understood?
Might we, instead of getting furious, get curious? Maybe pose a question before supplying a ready-made answer? Maybe ask for more specifics, or probe for the impact of their sharing?
Where to Start?
It seems to me that we start by slowing down, and by becoming genuinely interested in the perspectives of our colleagues–whether superiors, subordinates, or partners.
Then we use some of these skills to demonstrate that interest.
And then, as we listen carefully, maybe we can hear each other.
Wouldn’t that be great? Maybe that’s what we all want.
Questions for reflection:
- In what ways do you demonstrate genuine concern for others?
- How might you increase your listening skills to ensure others are heard and valued?
- What support systems might you need to be able to achieve this?
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