It’s no surprise: I like email. I love to tweet. I adore blogging. I definitely express myself best in writing. Around the middle of the month, I read this thoughtful blog post by one of our Board’s superintendents, Sue Dunlop. She speaks about her own email experiences, and how sometimes face-to-face discussions are better. While I often have phone and face-to-face conversations with parents, I tend to avoid these conversations professionally. I’m a very passionate person, but I also tend to be very emotional. It’s sometimes hard to control these emotions in face-to-face discussions. I like that I can plan out what I’m going to say in an email, and I can take my time formulating a response. Just like students need thinking time, as an adult, I also need it.
Recently though, I decided to do something that’s very “uncomfortable” for me, and I initiated a professional face-to-face discussion. I’ll admit that I tried emailing first. I even considered a blog post. But I couldn’t seem to formulate my ideas well, and I knew that this was something I needed to talk about. This was also a case where it wasn’t good enough to just share thinking on a “general topic” … for my own peace of mind, I needed to dig a little deeper.
And as hard as this was for me, I’m so glad that I had this discussion. Things went way better than I anticipated. I got to hear a different point of view, and now I understand so much more. By thinking ahead about what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it, I also managed to keep my emotions in check. This may be a small thing for many people, but it’s a huge thing for me! After talking, I was left with a lot of wonderful things to think about, including the fact that maybe I should have these professional talks a little more often.
Every day, I ask students to take risks. I tell them that a little “struggling” is a good thing. I encourage them to get uncomfortable. I think I need to do the same. I may feel comfortable getting uncomfortable in my teaching practices, but before the year is over, I need to move into more uncomfortable territory in my professional and social interactions. This is going to be hard, but I’m ready! I know how valuable this last conversation was, and now I know that I can do it again. Thanks Sue for the little nudge … even if you didn’t realize that you were giving me one! 🙂
It was back in January that so many of us chose our “one word.” Mine has guided me a lot this year, and I feel as though my definition of it continues to evolve. What impact has your “one word” had on your life so far? As I contemplate my next “uncomfortable” goal, I’d also love to hear your stories.
It’s hard to imagine that you would be uncomfortable speaking, initiating a professional, face-to-face conversation. I feel that I hear your voice all week long as I read you tweets and your blog. I listen to your voice on video clips of your class. But now that you mention it, I realize that I fear my own emotional reactions to subjects that may come up in professional conversations. Especially if someone says something either dismissive of my passions or counter to my deeply held beliefs, I may have reactions such as increased heart rate, coloring, jaw clenching, looking away, etc. I’m not afraid that I would say something inappropriate, but only that I won’t be able to think of good responses in the same way I would if I were writing. I thought I was the only one who hesitated for reasons such as that. My supervisor at school is so good about walking right up and starting in on what she thinks needs to be said and getting the ball rolling. I tend to tiptoe around and wait for just the right moment and start with hints that something is on my mind. Had not ever really considered that before. Thank you for this brave post, as always!
Thanks for sharing your experiences, Cynthia! I definitely feel differently when I can get my ideas out in writing. It’s harder face-to-face. I think it’s because I don’t always know how the other person will respond, and I have to be ready to respond back (and not emotionally). This is hard. I can get this extra thinking time in writing, but not always when talking. I’ll keep working on this though. It’s not easy, but it is important.
Thanks for a great post. Like yourself, I often tend to shy away from the “uncomfortable”. I have really tried to embrace the power of being vulnerable. In my role as Safe and Caring Schools teacher this year, I have really forced myself to listen very closely. I realized that many times, all I do is hear. Listening has helped me to be present to what others are saying (whether its students, teachers, admin or Board staff). It has also allowed me to help frame my responses and queries in a more effective way. This process is ongoing and is always a challenge. I appreciate the thoughtful way you expressed your thoughts regarding these situations. My final note is that I always try to now create a safe space, whether we meet in circle or face to face. This way it is understood the discussion is about the problem and the issue and not the person. Yet once again, creating that safe space continues to be a process.
Thanks for sharing your experiences, JR! I love how you create this safe space. I think that knowing that the focus is on the issues and not the person, is huge. Listening well is so important, and it’s something that I continue to work on. Maybe attempting more face-to-face discussions will help me work on this.