Teacher as the Catalyst

Hi!

In recent weeks I’ve written papers that will lead to my recommendations for a workshop for teachers of early grades. The workshops are designed to focus on the teacher as the catalyst that is meant to create an environment of mutuality, respect for the individual and the importance of each child as the unique being they must be and are to become. Being a listener, a questioner, a confirmer and being candid in response are the essential building blocks to each child’s becoming. And with the teacher being this as their role model, they do.

Academics and how to teach reading, numbers and writing are not the purpose of the workshop and are not to be included. The sole purpose is to empower each child and to give them the tools of respect, regard, relationships and dialogue with each other and their adult example.

In most cases what will be experienced by each child may not be their experience at home and around the “kitchen table.” At home most children are not empowered to be in dialogue with their family, but to be witness. The more common experience for most children is to be silent and an observer to family conversation.  

As a child develops so do the powers of others outside their family; the potential for being influenced by the “sensitive, aware teacher” is immense. But this potential has both the power to grow the child as a unique, sensitive, aware of others, person, or to close the child off to themselves and harden their defenses. And the full reason for the workshops I suggest. Early grade teachers are the key to opening a child to their potential and why, as the role model, teachers are the one that can make a huge difference in a child’s life.     Sy

If You Listen-More on Workshops

My use of the term “confirm” is intended to mean “I hear and understand you” and not by parroting the speaker, but in a listener’s own words. “So what you are saying——-” and if in accord with the speaker’s intentions the speaker feels heard, understood and confirmed. Wow!

 I cannot over emphasize the importance of confirmation to the speaker. Any speaker of substance believes they offer words and thoughts that have value worth the listener’s time and attention. I also go deeper by suggesting that the listener’s confirmation of the speaker and what they hear and understand, nurtures the speaker to go deeper into their subject matter. Simply, how else does the speaker know that the listener listens and understands?  And what of the few that may appear to listen to the speaker, but are somewhere else? How is it possible for speaker and participants to connect; and, if not connected, why be teacher, leader, role model to them?

Experience is my teacher: In the service I held weekly gatherings discussing current news, taught elementary school children, and trained my own young staff on how to work with children. Eventually I led workshops with professionals, entrepreneurs, leaders and their Inner Circles. In very little time I discovered that many of my listeners did not always listen. So like the professional comic dealing with a raucous audience I developed an easy way of bringing listeners to the table and being present. As I wrote in a recent paper, I frequently stopped talking and questioned my supposed listeners to tell me what they heard, thought, feel, etc. about what I said. I asked for their opinions, I invited dialogue even if my understanding of the significance of dialogue was years away.

From the speaker’s view point checking on what people hear and understand is essential and needs to occur often.  This is also a training device that over time brings even the most reticent to “the table.” Finally, if a speaker feels that what they have to say is important and necessary they need to take as much responsibility as required to get their message across. Bringing listeners to the point of dialogue, questioning, even agreement or disagreement is a gift shared to the betterment of all, including the speaker.      Sy

I have this to say————–All I ask, that you listen———-Agree, disagree. 

Listening & Understanding

When we’re present (in the now) we usually hear what is being said to us, but may not understand or agree with what is being said. When a speaker speaks they need to know that they are being listened to, understood and maybe that agreement also results? This is typical conversation taking place between people that may not feel as equals. Here I could be referring to parent/child, teacher/ student, boss/employee, or any relationship where hierarchy exists. This is a picture of the speaker with power to influence, the listener not having their true voice, making the probability of an honest exchange between speaker and listener remote.

On the other hand, where and when genuine dialogues takes place, people, at least during the period dialogue happens, feel and therefore are temporarily equals. Now, hearing, understanding and even agreement becomes part of the environment. If the one with power to influence empowers the other and this becomes the listener’s experience and feelings, dialogue will lead to hearing, understanding and real possibility of agreement.

The difference between dialogue and conversation are worlds apart. Typical talk or instructions from people with power down to people that feel powerless (feeling powerless is identical to being powerless) is usually a waste of time.  Those that use power to dominate may believe they are heard, understood and agreed with. They may be heard and maybe understood, but expecting agreement is rare, compliance the more likely. Not what a true leader wants so people in power are responsible for building trust and empowering those they hold power over. Since dialogue, if it is to take to take place, must be between equals, how else can this take place?

In my workshops I frequently stopped lecturing and made it a point to ask each participant, looking directly at them, to tell me what they heard, understood and their feelings and thoughts. If they did not want to share I thanked them and went to the next person and asked the same questions. When someone spoke I listened and confirmed what they said. I never asked them to agree with me. They shared thoughts and feelings, I listened. In time everyone talked and interrupted too. Lecturing became dialogue.  Sy   

Leadership & Role Model Workshop (3)

Being In the Present Is Where We need to Live Our Life. For Too Many This Is A Rare Experience:

It was a first gathering with this group of 10 including the leader. When preparing for a new organization and a first gathering of the leader and their Inner Circle I tell them to come to the workshop prepared to be as comfortable as possible. I suggest jeans or sweats because we might spend some time lying about on the floor. Anything I can do to increase interest in what is to come has to help people that have never met me. I always searched for tools and methods to bring this about.

This particular time I brought to the meeting a small boom box and a CD of Baroque Music. I had every one find a comfortable place on the floor and told them that we were going to listen to about 3 minutes of baroque music and that I would replay this same section of music 4 times. The first time I want them to listen to the music as one whole picture. I played the CD and people listened at different levels. A few may have been familiar with the music, but the majority had no connection to this very old/new sound, but at least heard the variety of instruments playing with and against each other in a harmonious way. In the 2ndlistening I told them to listen, once again, to the full baroque orchestra. 

Following the identical 3 minute piece a 2ndtime proved that familiarity was quick to take place. For the 3rdlistening I asked them to select an instrument and for the 3 minutes follow only 1 instrument and try not to hear any other instruments. I did this for the 4thlistening and to select the same instrument and filter out any other sound. At the conclusion of the 4thtime listening to the same piece of music I waited a few minutes and went from person to person inviting their feelings and thoughts.

The experiences they shared were powerful certainly to them. At least four cried while sharing what they felt and for some what they saw. One told us of being visited by G—and was assured that her mother would recover after a serious operation. Another shared that she was flying by herself over the countryside and saw colors and landscape as never before. Each shared what for them was a remarkable moment during this experiment of being fully present. Needless to say, the experience of being present with the baroque enveloping them was a successful time for everyone. In future gatherings we never needed to spend time or discuss “being present.” We all simply were. And, yes, more music?

Without being in the here and now we do not hear each other. We certainly do not understand each other and we cannot converse and feel confirmed relative to what we say and feel. So much is lost when not present. In comparison, so much is gained by our being present. Dialogue with family, friends, co-workers and even strangers is potentially so full of riches that to miss what being present means to each of us is too great a loss. Just consider what the people in this story gained and learned about themselves by our simple music experiment?  (Hearing and listening—next)       Sy

Haikus:

I am here and now————-A blessing to be present————–Why be somewhere else?

The Key “Be Present”———-Opens doors to know answers———–Are you here and now?

Leadership & Role Model Workshop (2)

My thoughts on a workshop for early grade teachers and the potential they have to alter the beliefs and behavior of their students:

My experiences have taught me that there are absolute conditions that must exist if participants of workshops are to benefit. What follows will list and describe these essential conditions. I may also share a story or two experienced during workshops I have given. Let’s see what we shall see. 

Being Present: How important a beginning? Without being present where is the student? People might be anywhere in their mind, but not the workshop room. This is where they must be physically, mentally and emotionally. If not, all is wasted regardless of its potential value to them.

For many, not being present is a learned response to unpleasant and even terrifying experiences. Early on children learn to emotionally run and disappear. They learn how not to be present.  It could be parents arguing and screaming, or even being physical. Being helpless to intervene, mental and emotional escape is easy to grab hold of and use and may become their chosen way of dealing with events out of their control or threatening.

Mental and emotional escape or not being present and in the “now” is damaging to ones psychic and physical being. The scar tissue runs deep because it usually begins very early in a child’s life and continues to do damage to the person throughout their life. Being present as long as safety is assured is like walking on very thin ice so not being present is kept close by for those that feel the need to escape. 

Since my need to have all participants as fully present as possible, I begin each new workshop with the importance of “being present” as an opening discussion. If necessary, I might introduce a fun activity that is almost assured to bring the value of being present to everyone even those few who are rarely present. 

What follows in the next paper is the story of a super process I’ve used where necessary. It’s a winner. I know this because when used people have taken it home with them.  Sy 

Leadership & Role Model workshop (1)

Years of experiences providing workshop for people from literally every walk of life has blessed me with an array of tools and much understanding of what a successful education program in the “art of relationship” needs to be.  Originally, I was employed to help professionals and entrepreneurs train their staff. After-all, it was what I did with considerable success for the prior 25 years. 

Working with other leaders I quickly saw that most problems with staff had little to do with staff, but with the words and behavior of their leader. This troubled me since I had been a leader for 25 years and had no thought that I may have been the cause of the problems I had with individuals that worked for me.

I never remember asking staff “what kind of leader am I?” I just took care of problems as they arose. Staff problems were always “their” problem and I handled problems and problem staff with the belief that it was my job to solve problems and not to cause them.

Working with other leaders introduced me to the power these people possessed and the realization that it was the same power I had as a leader. I needed to understand (at last) what being a leader meant. This led to the issue of power and influence over others and to my doing research more intense than at any time in my life. I read everything from every source I could find on the subjects. My notes took up boxes as did my library fill top to bottom. I became a true student and loved every moment. 

I also learned that there were leaders that sought me out expecting to gather “tools” in order to better dominate and manipulate their staff. That they might be their own worst enemy never entered their mind or psyche. Self growth was not what they sought, or open to any of that. Also, many had years of therapy and still believed they were not the problem; others were their problems. These people seek to change their appearance, not themselves. It’s always others they seek to change. I chose not to work with them, but did work with those that had the courage to accept “that they might be the barrier to the experience they sought.”Genuine Dialogue, GenuineRelationship and Authenticity.”  Sy

Role Models-More on the “Problem Child”

What happened between us that erased so quickly his volatile behavior and transformed him into a positive force? I was fully present with him, he felt my respect and regard, I listened carefully to what he was saying and then confirmed what I heard him say. Also, my responses to him and what he felt, assured him a relationship of trust and mutuality. Finally, my candid response “sure!” when he asked to return to his class nailed it all.   

This is “genuine dialogue” between equals even if I stood feet taller than him and held all the power. Fear may have stood between us at the very beginning of our meeting, but our few minutes of silence and just looking at each other took that away. I have to believe that my look of acceptance eliminated any fear of me he may have had. Nothing but a little space stood between us. I intended this and he experienced this.

What would have been gained had I conveyed my authority and power over him? Fear would have ruled his behavior and even his anger and what might this have resulted in?

When I was first informed that the principal was bringing a troubled child to me I immediately made myself open to anything that might take place including a very frightened child. Most importantly, I made myself present. What better way to meet the unknown?

When his teacher came to me two hours later she was remarkably open to what I had to say. It was a very receptive moment for her and other teachers sitting around the table. I explained that my making myself present and showing respect for him as a person set up the environment between and around us. It also had to be made clear that nothing I did was performance, but was real, real to me and real to him. Anything less would have turned the environment toxic between us.

His apologizing to his teacher and students suggests a possibility to me. I may have touched his “self.” I believe our “self” loves and is the best of what we are. If true, I accessed his “self” and he responded by being his “self.”   Sy