Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

It's Not You, It's Me- The Common Denominator

It starts with me...

It's not you, it's me. And I don't mean that in the cliched, "It's actually really you" way. It really is me...

I've always imagined that I was fairly articulate, a good communicator. Although I was slow to begin reading and writing in elementary school, once I caught on, I quickly developed a deep appreciation for the intricacies of language. I am mindful of the incredible power of words- their ability to shift perceptions and transform thinking. I've always felt that clear, transparent communication is essential to building trusting, collaborative relationships. So needless to say, it's been a bit of eye opener to realize that I actually kind of suck at it. Ok, "suck" might be a bit strong... Let's just say, it's an area of growth for me.

Fortunately, I have some incredibly wise mentors in my life. I've written in previous posts how these individuals have helped me to find my edge, and to move past it into new understanding and learning. They push me to examine and question my own thinking, to consider my motivations for doing what I do. They encourage, support and challenge me every day. And they're not afraid to tell me when I'm wrong...

So here's where the "it's me" part comes in. In conversation with a couple of these wise individuals over this past week, I've come to realize that in every scenario where I've felt frustrated, or ineffective in my interactions with others, the common denominator was me. I may have felt like I was communicating effectively, but if there was confusion or concern as a result, I failed to communicate effectively. I may have felt like I was showing compassion and care in my interactions with others, but if there was anxiety or upset as a result, I failed to demonstrate compassion and care. I may have felt like I was providing opportunities for growth and learning, but if that resulted in disengagement or unease, then I failed to provide opportunities for growth and learning. I have been reminded that it really doesn't matter what I feel like I'm doing, what matters is others' perception and understanding of what I'm doing... I know "failed" is a strong word. But I see it as an absolutely necessary realization, an opportunity to reflect, to re-evaluate and to grow.

By identifying myself as the "common denominator", I am gradually moving towards a better understanding of what I need to do to move forward, and to support the continued growth and learning of staff and students in my school community. By identifying myself as the common denominator, I have been reminded that it starts with me.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

In the End, No One Really Cares

The other day, I told a student that I didn't care if he failed. I'm sure he thought I was crazy. And likely the counsellor who was sitting in on the conversation was thinking the same thing. To her credit, she didn't say it out loud.

The student that I was speaking to had been missing classes. In the first month and a half of classes, he'd probably missed more than he'd attended. As a result of this, and several other factors, he was failing all of his classes. One of which he was repeating for the second time. He had come to school on this day, late, but he'd come. Perhaps as a result of the conversation that I'd had with his mom the day before. To be honest, I was just so happy to see him, all I could do initially was grin at him. Thus the, "this woman is crazy" look on his face...

As we waited for his counsellor to join us, I asked him what his favourite thing was about school. He stared at me blankly, and then slowly began to shake his head from side to side. He didn't know. He couldn't think of anything. Although I maintained my smile, inside my heart was sinking. A month a half into school, and there wasn't a single thing that this student could think of that he liked so far. But after a minute or two of gentle probing, he finally thought of something. He liked cooking. Awesome.

In attempt to put him at ease a bit, I began to tell him a little about myself. I'm new to the school, and so I'm meeting many of our 1200 students for the first time. I shared that I'd struggled in school myself, that I'd also failed classes. His eyes widened. I told him that when I'd interviewed for my current position, no one had asked me when I'd learned how to read (grade 2), how many times I'd failed math (twice), or how many awards I'd won (one, in grade 8 Band- thank you Mr. Green). They didn't care about any of that stuff. They just cared about where I was now.

As the counsellor entered, our conversation continued. I told him that "success" might look a little bit different for him. It might take him a few more times through a course, an extra year in high school, some additional support through it all. And I also told him that I didn't care if he failed a class. I just wanted him to come. That we would worry about the whole "passing" thing a little later on...

As we set out a plan for the following week, one that includes him stopping by in the mornings to say hi to me before he sets off for class, I reminded him that five, ten years from now, no one would really care where he'd started out...they would just care where he finished. I'm not sure if he believed me. He probably still thinks I'm a bit crazy. But as long as I get to say hi to him every single morning next week, I'm ok with that...

My one & only. Thank you Mr. Green.