* Crucial Conversations #3: Learn to look

crucial conversationsLearn to Look.  That’s chapter four in Crucial Conversations.  Look at my reactions, look at others’ reactions, and check for signs that we are moving towards “silence” or “violence.”

Why am I so much better at this with kids but not my colleagues?  I may miss kids’ signals at times, but overall, I am attuned to their mood, their body signals, their language, and their needs.  Other teachers and adminstrators?  My crucial conversations are best when I’m advocating for kids’ needs (at least I’m not being silent) but then I tend to go overboard and have to apologize for not listening, for interrupting, for saying the same thing over and over to COMPEL people to do what I think is best.  Arrgh.

As a teacher, I’ve been in perpetual training mode with kids, working to be effective.  If I want to be a successful teacher, I must understand my students and react in helpful ways.  I must make the environment safe so they can move forward.  I allow them to share their grumpiness and sarcasm without taking offense.  I allow them to be candid; in fact, I establish early on that I need them to be honest.  There are boundaries, but I permit a wide range of behaviors as they move towards improved self-understanding and improved self-control.  Another factor in my communication weaknesses with colleagues has been my isolation from the mainstream of education.  For much of my career, self-contained classrooms were out of sight and out of mind.  So were their teachers.  Kids from across the school districts would leave their “home schools” and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.  The Professional Learning Community (PLC) model was nonexistent.  I never learned from my mistakes in crucial conversations.

With colleagues, I am often defensive, fearful of criticism, and approval-seeking.  I haven’t moved very far from my early dysfunctional relationships.  As an abused kid, I said I would never treat children the way I was treated.  I believe Crucial Conversations will help me bring my collegial relationships into alignment with that childhood goal.  I had no voice and no safety in my childhood (not an exaggeration).  It is time for me to move to the next chapter of the book and of my life: “Make It Safe.”

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