Sunday, August 20, 2017

Language is All!

As a person who desires high-level proficiency in communication, more and more I realize the incredible learning lab that parenting two pre-schoolers is for me. I am taking notes and trying not to miss any of the lessons.  As I will continue to share, I believe with all of my heart that the inhabitants of school spaces need to be trained in talking with one another just as deliberately as we are trained to teach content.  After all, much of the work that we want schools to accomplish is either buoyed or stymied by grown folks' ability to have real conversations with one another about our work. I think that not only can book studies and professional trainings like Crucial Conversations help us, but that we also need language to help us navigate hard conversations.   In a recent post I shared some language that I like about sifting through assumptions.  As words come to me, I will be sharing them here to hopefully help someone else.  Eventually I realize I probably need to collect the language snippets I hear in my head and try out on my colleagues and kids, and put them in a book! But for now, here they are.

This past Saturday, as I was talking to my 4-1/2-year-old, he was trying to use his incredible gift of gab to convince me to do something I wasn't about to.  It was exhausting. I want both of my babies to know how to advocate for themselves--but I also want them to know when it's truly time to hush, to listen and say okay.  So this is the language I used, and I will continue to use it even with adults:

"Time-out.  What I need to hear from you right now, and in times like this, is..."

This gave us a few potent points of connection and re-framing:

"Time-out..."  This, with my time-out hand signals, let it be known that our dialogue was heading off-track and we needed to just stop to give our attention to its direction.

"What I need to hear from you..." I'm letting it be known the kind of response that will get the most favor and be the most beneficial for me and for him, and which is likely land us in a good place.  By definition, it also helps define what the right response is NOT.  This also helps my child, or my listener, to develop a lens for empathy.  Looking through my eyes, which they may not have considered trying, could shed some new light on our discussion.  Granted, my son is not my equal, but a "subordinate"; it may not work quite the same with equals.  I think that it can easily work with equals, however, when they have both expressed a desire to do what helps the other to be their best.  It suggests interdependence, trust, connection, accountability.

"[What I need to hear from you] right now, and in times like this..."
If my child is busy trying to push a point and is missing the fact that we are in a critical moment, he may not understand that his handling of it can make our break his outcome.  I'm narrowing down the story line and bringing our focus to this small moment to shine a spotlight there.

"[What I need to hear from you] right now, and in times like this..."
I'm giving my child a clear road map for reading the signals in different situations.  I want him to understand that you can generalize similar situations and surmise that the approach I'm about to share will work in all similar situations--at least where I'm concerned.

Once the phrase came together in my mind, I literally used it about 4 times that day.  Every time, it connected.  It made sense.  It cut down on the noise created by extra words, by mommy frustration, or by kid chatter.  And I look forward to trying it out in the professional world and in my personal world of adults, when the time is right.
Love and light,

Monday, August 14, 2017

Conversations...Always Crucial

Though I have not read it all, one of my favorite books, at least in theory, :-) is Crucial Conversations (:Tools for Talking When Stakes are High) by Kerry Patterson, et. al.  In it, they talk about the power of having honest conversations in high-stakes situations, without alienating the participating members and in a way that gets results.  A tricky thing to do, without a doubt.  Most of us have not even considered that this is possible, let alone having been trained in it.   But I believe that these crucial conversations are key to the ability of adults in schools, to effect change for children.  More on this later.  But I wanted to share a piece that occurred to me in the past few days: two powerful language stems that could help people to work better together.

"I believe that you believe..."

What if we were able to get inside of the unspoken assumptions we have about how other people see the world? The way we talk to ourselves about what another person is doing has everything to do with what we believe that they believe.  What if we just put these things on the table?

My Style

Once people use tools like Strengths Finder and Myers Briggs to identify their differences in style, then what? I have seen many people who stop there, declaring that "This is just the way I am," or content to forever be a slave to their style. But what if we said these powerful words?

"These are the elements of my style and personality that I am willing to sacrifice or examine for the greater good..."

Wow! Can you imagine?  I'll leave you with that food for thought, for now.  But I'll keep sharing as dialogue stems come up that can help you, and me, in these very tough scenarios we all face...

Monday, August 7, 2017

Follow the Leader & Become a Reader

Do you want to explore and enjoy the power of oral language with young children in your life?  Even in informal and seemingly silly ways, we can position all students for success as readers and writers by tapping the power of spoken language.  If we are intentional, consistent and have fun, it does not have to be complicated.

A favorite game for my own pre-school children is to play Follow the Leader with me in the car.  We take turns being the leader giving singing sounds, making beats, singing word parts and generally using our voices to excite the rest of the car with our creativity.   Here are some of the powerful advantages of a simple game like this:

  • No-cost: You need no supplies for this game--no books, no CDs, no materials
  • Rhythm regulates the brain, according to brain-compatible research
  • You can start with a rhythmic book for a frame of reference--something like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
  • General musicality is fostered, while various musical concepts are covered in one setting, such as scatting (jazz), freestyle (rap) and general improvisation (all genres)
  • The game reinforces skills in:
    • listening
    • intonation
    • syllabication
    • letter sounds
    • following directions (and careful listening)
    • leading

I am a strong believer that if my children can manipulate sounds in a number of ways, and enjoy what they are doing, they will be primed for reading and writing with intentionality and effectiveness.  Can you imagine the power we could give the families of our least successful children if we can figure out how to get parents to do this? #gamechanger #orallanguagepower