To help encourage conversations and dialogue about empathy, listening, and perspectives, our topic/question for the dinner table is: How can we be better listeners? Improving Our Listening (Week of 2/12/17) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
As we geared up for another storm (once again I was watching Jason Heim and Jillian Shaw's updates on Twitter!), I hope that you were able to take a break from shoveling and enjoy the weekend. As I sat and reflected while writing this post, I was reminded how centering and important it is to look outside and enjoy the beauty of the snow (not sure I will be appreciating it as much when shoveling during the next storm!). After a nice night out on Friday with some friends, we have had a pretty typical weekend with basketball and Maggie's swim meet - and we enjoyed watching The Lego Batman Movie with the boys - it was great! It's hard to believe that February vacation is one week away!
Since last Tuesday's professional afternoon and Empathy workshop with Christi Barney, I have found myself making connections and reflecting on our discussion and the implications that come about from our work with students. Sharing some of the highlights and 'take-aways' with Katie and friends, I was struck by the good fortune we have as educators to find meaning in our work that can influence and benefit our personal lives as well. I want to thank Deb Manning as well for sharing her 'Why I Teach' reflection at the start of the afternoon (sharing answers to these three questions - 'Why did you get into teaching? Why do you work with middle school students? What fulfills you in your work?)- it is always refreshing and uplifting to learn more about one another and how our paths have come to converge at Blake. It has been energizing to read the reflections on the workshop and we will be taking a close look to help define the next steps in our path to enhance the social-emotional learning for staff and students alike. I have shared a few of my notes from the afternoon, along with two posts that connect both directly and indirectly to our work this past week and this year at Blake.
Some notes from our afternoon...
- Empathy ('I understand or can appreciate where you are coming from') vs Sympathy ('you poor thing')
- Empathic communication traffic light
- We all have 'bubble thoughts' - how attuned are we to others?
- Empathic listening - Active listening, Validate Feelings or Affective content (“You sound upset?” “That sounds scary.”), Re-state phrases, Making space (“Hmmmm”, “Let’s talk..”), “Tell me more”
- Working to remain empathic when faced with the unlikeable
- Quote from Daniel Goleman: 'Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection - or compassionate action.'
- Languages of Love - Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gift Giving, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch
'Mom, You Don't Get It. They Only Do Stuff for the Grade.'
by Peter DeWitt (@PeterMDeWitt) in Education Week
This post is an open reflection by Lisa Weatherwax who, inspired by George Couros's (@gcouros) book, The Innovator's Mindset, had established a new independent study course. It is an interesting read and one that is important to keep in mind with our work at Blake - keeping a 'sense of urgency' on the forefront of our thinking, coupled with time built in to simply ask students for feedback and insight (an empathic approach).
As the conversation went on she told me that every day from the first bell in Kindergarten to last minute of high school teachers planned everything for her and she was pretty sure it was planned for them too. We recalled a summer conversation with a neighbor comparing education to a game of Ping-Pong; teacher serves the assignment, students complete it and return the serve, teacher serves another and students complete and return that too, the game continues and points are acquired. As we reflected on the Ping-Pong metaphor we realized how true it was. My girl had mastered our system and reminded me that my students had 11-12 years of getting good at the "sport" of school and I was changing the rules.
My brain spun for days. It was time to ask students what they were thinking about their learning. I chose several students reassuring them that I was looking for their candor. Simply asking for their opinion got some wild looks, but their insight was revealing.
More often than not, classrooms look and sound exactly as they have for the past several decades. I truly believe we are stuck in an outdated education system. Our world has changed and with that our schools must change to prepare students to enter a vastly different world than we did. Students will not be going into a standardized world and they can no longer be denied the opportunity to make decisions, to make global connections, to be creative in how they demonstrate their understanding, to have a voice in their learning, and to become innovative...It is going to take strong educators to put aside their comfortable habits and traditions and allow our students to be empowered in their learning. Until we do, school will just be another game of Ping-Pong.
Why We Should Stop Asking Kids What They Want To Be When They Grow Up
by Katie Martin (@KatieMTLC)
Martin's post resonated with me and, although I have heard these ideas before, reminded me that the post important thing we can do with our children and students is to simply listen and 'open up' dialogue for possibilities.
Asking kids what they want to be when they grow up seems to be an easy way to get to know what kids are interested in but it is too often how we categorize them. There are countless units and projects from preschool on up where teachers ask kids to identify what they want to be when they grow up and expect every kid to pick something. I am guilty of doing it myself even though I always hated when adults asked me growing up.
We are influenced by our surroundings and what we experience, which can limit our understanding of the world and especially the possibilities that exist...the key to changing a child’s trajectory is providing diverse experiences early on that allow them to see themselves in the world of work and see new possibilities for their future. Rather than narrowing the path for kids and pushing them to think about a career disconnected from one’s own passions and interests, Jaime Casap urges, “Don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up but what problems they want to solve.”
As my children are in the early years and developing their identity, I want them (and ALL children) to have opportunities to understand and build on their strengths, explore their passions and be empowered to solve problems that matter to them. I want them to see the world full of opportunities where they can create jobs rather than ascribe to what they perceive as the “right” path.
As some of you may have read, one of the pioneers in progressive education, Rick DuFour, passed away after a long bout with cancer. He was a true inspiration and educational leader, having led much of the work with PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) in schools. In a post from Education Week that Jeff shared with the Leadership team, Richard DuFour, Advocate of Professional Learning Communities, Dies at 69, I was particularly struck by these words as I believe they directly connect to our efforts with empathy and the culture of professional learning, reflection, and growth we are working to foster at Blake...
DuFour held that principals should have a "loose-tight" leadership style that allows teachers some autonomy in decision making, but protects the school's shared vision and values. In a 2015 opinion essay for Education Week Teacher, DuFour, along with Douglas Reeves, wrote that school leaders must do more than simply provide time for teachers to collaborate. "A professional learning community is not simply a meeting: It is an ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recursive cycles of collective inquiry and action research in order to achieve better results for the students they serve," they wrote.
The post below references an Educational Leadership with DuFour from May 2016 and his words at the end are centering, inspiring, and affirming regarding the work we are doing every day with our students.
Remembering Richard DuFour, Leading Voice on Professional Learning Communities
by Naomi Thiers in ASCD In-Service
Most recently, in our May 2016 issue, we interviewed DuFour about his 2015 book In Praise of American Educators, in which he argued U.S. teachers are accomplishing great things yet being scapegoated for problems in education...We will miss Richard DuFour’s example, vision, and voice.
I couldn’t imagine any other profession that would have been more satisfying for me. This was what I was born to do. I look at other professions and wonder, How could you be excited about that every day or passionate about that? So I feel that it’s been my life’s work, and I look at it with a sense of satisfaction and peace. - Rick DuFour
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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