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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Living in Trump Times: The Daily Drama

Who can resist the Trump Times drama that unfolds daily?

The characters are well dressed and many quite attractive. The action is quick, surprising and mysterious leaving us with questions all the time.

I'm reminded of the popular telenovelas I was introduced to on a trip to Brazil.

Yet, this is real life and not an afternoon or evening escape. This is where decisions are made that affect our daily living including health care, taxes, protection of Earth's resources, education and more. These are people who represent large shares of dollars--dollars, when well spent, that could truly help so many in need. Thus the interest, the worry, the intrigue and reaction.

There are shady characters, characters who have supported criminal acts, racism, sexism and prejudice against multiple cultures.

There are followers who are willing to repeat and elevate stories that don't tell the truth or at least the whole truth, and we wonder why people would choose to misrepresent the truth that way and in a sense sell their own reputations--what's the gain?

There's sound bites that capture main themes such as fake news, crazy, lyin, and witchhunt.

I don't know the truth of the matter, and I am so grateful that there's a well- respected investigative team that will help the truth to rise.

I'm also happy that Congress is working with bi-partisan support to elevate sanctions against Russia in view of the evidence we have that they hacked our cybersphere to influence the election.

I'm satisfied that the press is reporting the facts they learn from multiple perspectives. I know the press isn't always right or unbiased, but I also know that there are many, perhaps most, journalists who have integrity, and respect the profession and its aim to tell the truth, relay the facts and present an unbiased look at what's going on.

As in any group, there will be those that don't do what's right, but it's been my experience so far in life that most people in most groups do what's right, contribute and commit to the mission and vision of organizations and intended effect.

So as I've stated before, I'll keep abreast of Trump Times, speak up when inspired, research when necessary and attend to my own work and efforts to do what I believe in with strategy and focus that matters. Onward.

The Past is a Teacher

Recently a blast from the past haunted me. Years ago I had a troubling experience, and one of the people who caused that terrible event came into my purview. I had an immediate negative and frightened reaction. Probably a bit of PTSS: Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

After seeing this person again in what was a harmless situation, I thought about the fear and worry he incited in me. I also thought about what to do when I see this person again. I realized that the best way to deal with this is to allow that past experience to be a good teacher and move forward with that new learning.

In the situation I refer to, in my opinion, the individual acted without ethics, care, knowledge, courage or sensitivity. It was a cruel experience, and an experience I was not prepared for. But now I know that there are many ways to react to situations that are cruel and worrisome, but not physically dangerous.

First of all, it's important to know who you are and what you stand for. The better we know ourselves, the better we'll be able to represent ourselves with humility, strength and dignity.

Next, when verbally attacked, it's important to listen and ask clarifying questions with respect. There's typically no need to rush to a defense or response and it's better to ask as many questions as you need to ask to best understand the situation. Situations like the one I faced, in hindsight, lacked clarity--people, like the person I saw, really didn't even know what they were doing or why. The use of questioning would have brought the details of the situation to light for all.

If possible, the following step, is to create a process for peace--a way to come to common ground and understanding.

I'm sure I'll meet with angry, discontented individuals again. I'm sure that I'll be threatened, ridiculed and demeaned again too. What I hope will be different will be my level of confidence to represent myself well, diffuse the disrespectful individual by seeking clarity in respectful ways, and forge peaceful paths for next steps.

Specifically questions like this can help.

  • I note that you are very upset, can you tell me why?
  • What can I do now to help you with this situation--what will help you?
  • Can you explain your point of view more?
  • I don't understand that detail well, can you tell me more about it?
  • Why or what would make you think that?
  • If you were in my shoes, what would you do?
  • Is there anything I can say to help you understand my point of view more or better?
Questioning is a very helpful technique when it comes to finding common ground. Patience and taking your time helps too. And, making time to carefully outline your point of view is needed as well. It may be that you politely leave the meeting to give yourself tie to think alone or with comrades to figure out exactly where you stand in the situation.

Past troubling events from the past can be great teachers for the future if we're willing to take the time to reflect on the event and recognize the inherent lessons. 

Is Advocacy Natural?

Little children rarely don't advocate for themselves. When they want something, they let you know. So I would say that advocating for what we need and want is a natural instinct. Yet, as we get older, do we lose that instinct?

An educator friend who works in a system other than mine confided in me that at a recent meeting her colleagues quietly disagreed with a directive, but none of them would advocate for their opinion. The educators who stayed silent had close to many, many years of teaching experience and are known to be both dedicated and successful teachers. The directives were sent by educators with much less time teaching young children. So weren't the educated, experienced educators willing to speak up in the face of directives they found ill-directed? Did they lose their instinct, will or courage to advocate? Did they care? Had they developed their advocacy over time?

I think that many educators may fear advocacy. Others don't know how to advocate, and still more may not recognize the value of speaking up for small matters and how those small matters affect children's overall educational experience. In this situation it was a couple of directives, but there will be a trickle down effect, and these relatively small in scope directives will impact the entire teaching/learning program in ways that could be problematic or more likely stand in the way of good progress and development.

In the days ahead I'll be thinking more about advocacy including how and when people advocate and why that matters. I'll also look to good process and ways to encourage advocacy when it comes to issues, ideas and practice that greatly affect the work we do to uplift student success and positive experiences in school.