To get from friction to fruition, you have to suffer some frick-and-frack. It is during these moments that I remember to differentiate the issues: which of them are technical issues that can be solved using technical know-how and the institutions’ processes in place, and which of them are adaptive issues, which cannot be solved overnight nor in a week because they require the individuals to alter their ways of being in the workforce and how they interact with each other.
First off, it is important during these times of struggle to embrace uncertainty and to establish safe spaces for colleagues to share their feelings about a particular issue. If we’re going to be stepping on each others’ toes, we might as well be dancing. Though humorous, this saying I have I learned to live by has become my mantra. Dancing is a two-way street when performed correctly. Even though one individual may be leading more than the other, the gracefulness of the two bodies melds into one when both forces mirror each other. That is all ye need to know. It is truth and beauty.
But how do we get there? Some days, the boundaries blur between teachers, administration, teacher leaders, and when these boundaries are crossed, it is important to allow time and space to gather our thoughts. Remember, the technical and adaptive issues. Focusing on the differences takes time and space. At my previous school at Chinquapin Preparatory School, I crossed that boundary at a faculty meeting. I publicly and emotionally ousted someone. This teacher was sharing her feelings about some of her students and the difficulties she was having, and instead of defending or simply listening and acknowledging, I cracked an egg on her head. Immediately I sensed the pain I had caused.
I approached her after the meeting to explain my position but she did not want to listen to me. I respected that. All week, I was on pins and needles. She was granting (actually requiring) me the time to reflect on what had happened. We met a week later over coffee. Patience was not on my side those seven days. Over lattes we discussed the situation; she vented and I listened. Had I not reached out and shown that I was willing to be more supportive of her as a teacher-colleague and friend, I don’t think our professional relationship and friendship would have survived or turned into what it is today.
Indeed, in order to go from friction to fruition, you have to suffer through some frick-and-frack. You have to be willing to embrace your vulnerabilities and sometimes stupidity. Immediately pointing the fingers at others as the cause of this friction will not result in fruition. The conversation should be face-to-face, preferably within a week of the friction. It should focus on either the technical or adaptive issues separately. The week should be enough time to distinguish which is which.
In any workplace, but especially in schools (as this is a blog on education), the time spent talking about how communication works best “on us” and “for us” is time well spent. Professional Learning Communities only go so far if each person grants the other the time and space to speak and listen. Collaborative Learning is precisely that: understanding that Interdependence is an essential ingredient to building a Professional Learning Community or Critical Friends Group.
If some of these ideas interest you, I highly suggest you go here. There is some great stuff on building, facilitating, and organizing these groups so that they may come to fruition.
However, we do not want these meetings to be or feel humdrum. Sometimes, as teachers you have to throw the curriculum out the window to allow for teachable moments. Never let explicit teaching get in the way of implicit learning. In the end, the implicit learning is stalwart and eternal.
These moments of sharing the importance of Interdependence in the workplace are essential. Each of us has our strengths in the workplace, even the students. Our relationships depend on this (1)transparency and (2)trust. (1)Transparency in knowing that we may have know and understand where a person’s thoughts and feelings are coming from; essentially, to come to know their narrative and the urgency of their behaviors and actions because of their narrative. (2)Trust in knowing that if someone in the workplace feels like they need someone else to get a job done, they can rely on us, and (2)Trust in ourselves to know when and if we can get the requested job done.
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