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

Being present and open:

The other day I was approached by a member of the health club I go to who had just finished reading my book. He felt the book dealt with leadership in ways he strongly believed in and has not read in other books. He was enthused enough to ask if I’d speak to a professional group he belongs to. Of course, it pleased me to hear him express his pleasure with the book. But what he said intrigued me. He told me that I was communicating with two different groups at the same time. 

“On the one hand, you speak candidly to leaders about their power to influence those important to them. That through a leaders words and actions their followers are aided in their desire to grow or are restricted in their efforts ‘to be’ and contribute.” He agreed fully that most problems in an organization are the result of poor leadership. “On the other hand,” he continued, “you also speak forthe silent and disenfranchised majority, all of this often on the same page and most pages. Also, you don’t tell the subordinates what to do and how to communicate with troubled leadership. This is not a “self-help book” for followers.  What you do is confront the leader with their responsibilities and the importance of authenticity with their key people. You also make it apparent that whether the leader is aware or not they are teacher, sometimes student and definitely a role model to those most important to them.”

In a recent paper (and probably a few others) I explain that I wrote the book about a relationship philosophy that took years of work and study (which never ceases) and both fortunate and unfortunate personal experiences. Like good soup it took time and ingredients to form into a philosophy that is teachable and of proven value to people in personal and work situations. Many of you have contributed much to its creation and know it is not theoretical, esoteric meanderings or wishful thinking. It is practical, a hammer and saw, if you will, and is clearly hands on, in your face communication. In fact, is there a better path to genuine dialogue and mutuality? Being a mentor to other organizations made it possible for me to realize what it is that I know about communication and how to teach others this gift. Even now the lesson learned yesterday continues to pay dividends today.

In addition to the above there is much I’ve learned about what I’ve written, about myself and how important others have been to me. Not a few leaders have said to me that had they been aware of their power when running their own business applying this philosophy of leadership would, not could, have made a huge difference in the success of their business. I often think of my own ignorance and the many incidents that pushed me this or that way. Yes, not being aware of one’s role as a leader/role model and the influence that comes with these positions means dysfunction to individuals and relationships. In its broadest sense this is what creates the ‘disenfranchised majority’ I refer to above. They are silent, passive and pawns to most leaders, but are they?

Ignorance of one’s power over others is no excuse, try as most leaders do to fault others for the omissions and errors in daily work and personal lives. Acceptance and awareness of the gift that power is, and using this power to empower those we have influence over is what every leader needs to do. Whether received openly or rejected this then becomes the responsibility of those we are initially responsible for.  So, really, no one changes anyone. Only the individual self can do that.                             

Sy

Truth

What is truth? I find many answers to the question in religion, philosophy and history. Ask people and they will have their own definition and their own set of truths. Most people strongly believe what they believe is truth and arguing with them over what they believe more often than not hardens their position and maybe alienates them from any further discussion. In the worst case, the relationship may suffer. The wise know that challenging another’s belief invites trouble. Don’t! 

 Are their universal truths? What first comes to mind are truths that existed millions of years back? Examples abound: At one time the earth was covered by water. A truth that is difficult to grasp when we see mountains that reach beyond 29000 ft., or the giant dinosaurs that once roamed on land and sea. That an asteroid hit the earth and wiped out the giants that ruled the earth. That scientific evidence is now able to follow our heritage back to a place In Africa where human life began? 

These are truths, but so is the hard evidence that we are, at the very beginning, from one set of parents; that we are related. It is also true that as our predecessors increased they, of necessity, moved in every possible direction seeking food, water and some degree of safety. That man had to band together developing tribes because numbers also meant increased safety. This led to divergence from hunters to farmers, from loose bands to communities.    

Moving to almost every corner of the earth also changed appearances, the color of skin, the shape of our eyes, even our size and weight.  The different environments made for different looking people, but not the blood that flows within each human and the brain and emotions that rules human behavior.

What came out of mankind’s evolution are tribes, communities, villages and eventually countries, but throughout, forms of leadership and governance. These are all truths even if not fully understood or accepted by all of mankind.

People believe certain issues as irrefutable truths. Whether true and actual, or what they wish things to be and are not. This exists in one’s religion, economics, politics’ and forms of governance. Some want total individual freedom and others a “big brother” to care for them from birth to death. Believing is not incidental, but at its core, one’s truth. In some cases so strong that they would die for their belief 

Therein are the ingredients for problems between people. The refusal to accept difference (as I have previously written) is that beliefs can be so powerful as to cause all others whose beliefs are different to be “mine enemy” and that justify horror between brothers and sisters. One of the worst examples In recent times is the “Holocaust.”

Please be you with me. Sy

Haiku: Be different, please————-Be you and support me too———We are related.

Are we different?————-Yes and no and a good thing—————–difference a gift.

Making Relationships Work

Each of us is different in small but significant ways. Even if identical twins we each witness the world from a unique place, that is, from within ourselves. The mixing of what is inherited with what is experienced (people and events) add up to our being different from any other. This reality contributes to the unique selves we were to what we are this moment and to what we are to become. Since nothing is exactly what it was a moment ago we are literally bombarded by people and events that push and pull us towards unknowns we cannot know until we are there. Not unlike a lump of clay we are constantly molded by forces beyond our ability to control including aging. This is “actual,” not potential, but the degree of change depends on experiences and how we incorporate them. Here, so much depends on our being courageous and vulnerable to others and events. How else do we learn?

If we take the time to know ourselves as we are this day we need to discover this from and through our meaningful relationships. Those close to us know us better than we can possibly know ourselves. We are subjective when it comes to knowing ourselves and more objective relative to the other as they are to us. We may think we know ourselves, but the evidence is sketchy. It is the other that knows us as we do them.  Remember, the King thinks he’s dressed in finery, but everyone else sees him as he is without any clothes. Truth is so hard to come by?  

Examples abound: Are we good partners, parents, teachers, students, leaders, employees, friends and how are we to know any of this without genuine dialogue which must include respect and trust existing between us? Also, how is any of this possible without really being there for and with the other in this moment or when the other or events calls for us to be present? 

We know it takes “Two to Tango. “  A dance that demands some intricate and exotic moves from the parties involved. And so it is with relationships. We are either in step with others or out of step. This is so evident with significant others; doing the dance as it needs to be danced, is essential. There is either a coordinated dance that blends two and more into creative and productive relationships or confusion, stumbling and even conflict. So it goes with important relationships. Harmonious or dysfunctional it takes little to see, feel and know the difference. No one in the dance is fooled.

 Everyone’s journey has to do with actualizing one’s self. That is, being as fully one’s self as is possible. This journey is rarely easy and certainly not a solo one.  It requires others beginning with conception taking us into whatever life has in store for us. Our first lesson begins with our parents and formally or otherwise continues with others we interact with as we mature. The wiser amongst us seek to learn and allow experiences and others to enter into our very being. We are able to Tango.   Sy

Differences vital———-Experience and others———-Essential to us

Am I successful?———–A question I must answer——–Since truth is within

Do I dance alone?———- It does take Two to Tango——- Completes the picture.

Bernard Palissy’s Quote

A family member sent me the following quote attributed to Bernard Palissy, Fourteenth Century artist, engineer and writer. 

“Even if used a thousand reams of paper to write down all the accidents that have happened to me in learning this art, you must be assured that however good a brain you may have, you will still make a thousand mistakes, which cannot be learned from writing, and even if you had them in writing you wouldn’t believe them until practice has given you a thousand afflictions.”

Who amongst us has not experienced the difference between listening to what others say, reading what others have written compared to our own full immersion in the issue or project we read and hear others discuss? It’s why I contend and have written time and again of the importance of our own experiences, whether planned or accidental and how vital it is that we learn from what we do as well as the errors, omissions and successes of others. This is ultimately how people arrive at that “aha” moment. It is where “I Know!” results from endless head, heart and hands involvement. 

How many times in a day do we hear someone say “I know” when really they are parroting the words spoken and written by others? People say they “know” even if they have not actually experienced what it is they say they know so they don’t know, but think they know and too often this means beings closed off to knowing. For thousands of years people depended on pictures on cave walls, word of mouth, story tellers and balladeers for information. The data instantly available today is almost overwhelming. But whether the picture on a wall or the unlimited information on the internet none of this is knowing when compared to knowing from personal experience. And to complicate the issue of experiential knowing, our personal experiences are never without bias. 

Have you ever played the game of “telephone” where someone whispers to the person next to them and the next person whispers what they heard to the next one and so on until all the people in the circle had a story relayed to them? It’s a laugher as to how quickly a story is changed from one person to the next. Is it that we hear what we want to hear and see what we want to see?

We humans are limited in our ability to be objective. As long as we have feelings and history we also have influences playing on our thought processes and behavior. So nothing is crystal clear and pure when it comes to humans as reporters, story tellers, leaders and teachers even if they have “been there and done that.” So the “knower” never conveys an exact truth. People are not cameras. No, our subjectivity is pervasive and is part of everyone’s experience. That being said, I strongly hold to the quote at the beginning of this paper that in order to really know something one must experience it. The message is clear: Don’t deny or resent your experiences. Learn from them.   Being a student is a never ending drive for some and all students are to be commended. But being a student to others written and spoken words does not lead to knowing it leads to a”between the ears” understanding. This is a good thing, but limited to answering questions not solving problems. The true problem solver is similar to the true entrepreneur. They will be knocked down, maybe bloodied, face failure time and again, but continue their particular journey because they are driven to know and to know must be experienced.

What does it mean to be “vulnerable?”

I intend it to mean strength, courage and a willingness to be open to those closest to us and to ourselves. It is where growth takes root and moves out into the world we live in and with those with whom we live and work. It is honest, respectful, nurturing and accepting. Most importantly those who are vulnerable listen and work to understand the other. In the process being who they are, but because of events, people and being vulnerable are also in a state of becoming.

In truth, all humans are born open and vulnerable, but too soon begin the process of closing up to being and becoming what others (in power) influences them to be. And, therefore, to a considerable degree we learn to be what others choose for us to be and this may be harmful or loving.

If loving, nurturing and accepting we remain ourselves still growing, being and becoming, but always our unique self and not what others would have us be.

If harmful to us and unconscious or intentional to the perpetrators (those who hold power over us) we become what we must in order to survive. But this is learned behavior and regardless of how deep, it is still learned. And what humans learn can be unlearned. Much difference between what we inherit and what we learn. The former is permanent and the latter may be changed.

Not without courage to be open and vulnerable are people able to change. All of us can appear to be open, but “appearance” is an act. It is the wearing of an exterior that we believe hides us and therefore fools the other, but in truth, those closest to us are not fooled. They know much of the truth of whom and what we really are. Others are, after all, relatively objective of us as we are of them, but we are all too subjective of ourselves. We rarely look in, but spend most of our time looking out and believing the mirror.

And this is what being vulnerable means and why it takes courage. Being open to the objectivity of those close to us is never easy to experience. First, of course, it is fear of our weaknesses being exposed. And secondly, it means giving up one’s power to significant others if even temporarily.  

Finally, if just for now, the most powerful amongst us are the people who most need to be vulnerable and invite those important to them to communicate what they “know” of the one in power. Dangerous grounds to stand on without a knowledgeable mentor to facilitate the interaction and any hope of mutuality and true dialogue.

True growth and change begins deep within each self and happens only when what is outside is allowed in.    Sy

Season’s greeting to all

The world is in a difficult place. We in our own country are in a difficult place. Too many families and individuals are in a difficult place. Politically, we are split down the middle as a country with issues that appear to be intransigent. Is there one possible way out to all of this that might just be common to all of us? In my own very insignificant opinion I believe buried somewhere in most, if not all of these issues is the problem of communication.  Not news, radio, TV, cell phones and the thousands of app communications, but old fashioned face to face dialogue. And which includes listening, actually trying hard to understand what the other is saying, and confirming them, not necessarily agreeing, but actually understanding from whence they come with some modicum of empathy? 

The data from our technologies (yesterdays and today’s) is unbelievable, and certainly has value in terms of information constantly accumulating and available to one and all. But information and data are not necessarily truths, and most certainly have nothing to do with one’s own personal “hands on experiences.”

Hearsay, by any means, including the avowed experiences of others is not our own experience. How weak and helpless are those that make the words and supposed experiences of others their own truths. It is not “I was told or read” but becomes “I know“ when in fact nobody knows what they have not personally experienced. 

We as a culture and society are in deep trouble, and I strongly believe this has much to do with our dearth of time to seriously be with each other, to touch, to see, to hear and to understand each other. Many do not eat together, meet together to share the day and their thoughts and feelings. How and in what way are we together e-mailing, texting, talking on our cell phones to each other? And finally how can we miss our evening favorite and absolutely essential TV programs depicting life as we ourselves are not living it?

Family is held up as the strength and heart of our country. Are those who believe this today serious? How many families sit down at the kitchen table together for dinner intent on hearing and understanding the words and stories each has to tell, and want to tell? And this without TV and cell phone interference? Work is such that we become so busy that meetings do not take place because they are wasted not on dialogue which is never a waste, but on firm agendas. And where and when are the spontaneous and creative interactions between people? Those of us that know genuine dialogue with our significant others are truly the blessed ones. 

Have a wonderful and loving holiday season, and may the New Year bring some peace to all. Sy

Genuine Dialog

I may be the wrong one to attempt a paper on the joys, hopes, rewards and potential of technology, and its myriads of problems. On the other hand, since I am still partially in the cave, I have the sense of push and pull in both directions. I do want to learn how to use and benefit by this remarkable phenomena, and at the same time not to have it replace the “face to face” dialogue I have lived my life and work trying to understand, use and teach.

My thoughts shout at me that communication between people is not the problem. We are probably more in touch with each other than at any time in man’s history? But the “being in touch” is like walking on water. That is, we are communicating to each other, but not getting wet. Face to face dialogue is getting wet! And Genuine Dialogue is like having a spiritual (full immersion) experience. Today, our technology aided communication is a very dry experience; not only dry, but antiseptic. What we touch is not each other, but a tool. Too few are immersed in significant relationships that require, even demand, a sharing of space that is separated by a few feet, and often inches. Where eye to eye contact gives us a full bodied message as compared to only hearing and seeing words; how can this be when what is called communication takes place through small hand held objects and computers, and at distances that may cover the world?

Yes! The amount, speed, and kind of data that is transferred between people are not simply remarkable, but is shaping our world as we live this moment. The miracle of Egypt was precipitated by this technology; without which their many issues may have simmered for another 30 years. So what nation, business, community, religious institution, family is not in some way at the effect of this technological revolution?  People movements from the Tea Party to those on the other side of the spectrum know of the power, but hardly of its possibilities because it changes, metamorphoses’ before our eyes. It is a tool that may even, one day in the not too distant future, control us as its controller.

So my point, before I run beyond my allotted space (one page) is that if we are to hold on to our humanity, and the primary purpose of our being, it must be through our relationships with each other, and what I still believe evolution is about. That is, moving towards being there for each other, hearing and understanding each other; respecting individual differences, and yes, loving our neighbors as we also need to be loved. We must be present with each other when we do meet face to face, or how else do we confirm each other? And candor in the safety of distance and technology is not the candor of Genuine Dialogue.  And this must happen in at least a minimum of our relationships.

 It has been said that if one can count five friends in a life time they will have lived a rich, full life. We may call the multitudes we reach on Twitter, Face book, E-mail our “friends,” but I don’t think so. And, I venture, either do you. So put aside, as often as possible, all the technology you are using, and begin anew with your truly select friends, a dialogue that is genuine. Be with each other when with each other, show respect for the uniqueness that is brought to the table. Listen and confirm what is being said, and this has nothing to do with agreement, and express your truth; not as a definitive truth that wins over their truth, but simply your truth versus their truth. Finally, look into the other’s eyes as they look into yours. It is amazing this oldest and most permanent of communication “tools” I label GENUINE DIALOGUE.                       Sy        

Events Dictate

I would guess I’ve used the words, “Events dictate the exercise of power” for well over 30 years. I know the words to be true, even if, for too many, their response is way out line, that is, either too strong, too weak, or nothing (and doing nothing is still a response). My seeking has always been for the appropriate response, and made by the appropriate person, which may or may not be the actual leader. But the words need to be understood before we deal with the issues presented by any event.

What do I mean when I speak or write these words?“Events” are those daily “happenings” that make our days unique, different from every other day that passes us by. The breakdown of communication, software, hardware, people, misinterpreted words, and the multitude of good and not so good things that can occur, and usually do in the lives of those of us that face more than” what do I wear” for the day’s big decision. And “dictate” as intended here means to demand that something be done; if not now, then soon, and by one that can handle the issue that calls. This requires some degree of “power” to take charge or to designate another to take on the task, has the authority, and resources to deal with the event at hand. Many mistakes are made at this point.

Problems become evident quickly (that is, to the keen observer) that too often “events” are not picked up in a timely manner, passed over, swept under, too weakly acted on, or too strong, and over the board, efforts to handle. To match the right person, and response, to an event is rare, and another considerable problem to lay on top of the event that dictates the exercise of power.When “things” happen to us we either run, stand and fight, embrace it, or freeze. Rare is the event that calls for a “this instant” response. Stopping to dialogue and assess an event is rare. Most people do not live in the present, and events need to hit them in the mid-section before they become aware that a response of some kind is called for. And here is where a master leader is called for. Master because they are quick to see events coming, respond appropriately, and exercise their power in ways that both save the day, and grow their people.