Jennifer Abrams, a professional developer and consultant, writes about finding one’s voice in her monthly newsletter, Voice Lessons. This newsletter is entitled “Moving from Inner Ouches to Opportunity.”
Last night I received an email from a bubbly young woman who was at one of my workshops in July. She had written to say that she had just been at a training in her district facilitated by a consultant who was ‘amazing’ and who ‘got us to be quiet even faster than you did.’ There was a smiley face next to the comment, but all I could think of at 9pm on a Tuesday night in the midst of a busy month was “Ouch.” I wrote back, “I’ll check out his website, thanks! Glad you had a good day and that he was terrific!” but what I was really thinking was “Ouch.”
To say that my lack of a growth mindset at that moment was evident is an understatement. I was grumpy and whiny and needed a hug. I was not on a learning edge. My fragility was front and center. I began comparing myself to this guy. Judging him, and in doing so, judging myself. I started excusing, deflecting and defending. This didn’t go on for forever because I curled up and went to sleep, but you get the picture. It wasn’t useful.
In the morning, I was embarrassed…
My inner response was real and honest, but not professional. Then I started thinking of every professional learning community member, every data team participant, and every new teacher this year who will be receiving feedback from a coach or content specialist or supervisor in the next few weeks and how, as school begins and the work starts, there might be a few colleagues out there who will also be feeling some ‘inner ouches.’
What do I do with my inner ouch?
- Say to myself aloud (either in my head or into my apartment when no one else is there), “This is an opportunity to get curious and see what the learning can be.” I open my body, uncross my arms, and physically lean into the moment.
- Try not to beat myself up. Self-compassion isn’t only for the weak; it is a smart strategy. When we can be kind to ourselves, we can care for others even more substantively.
- Know that there will always be a learning edge – not a flaw to feel bad about, but an edge at which to grow. Recognize that acknowledging my insecurities and edges will help me see my students and their edges in a more generous way.
- Be aware that however adult we are trying to be on the ‘outside,’ we bring our fears to the table. And, as an adult, I need to self-manage my insides in order to stay the best professional I can be. Admit discomfort, sit with the feelings, stay engaged, ask questions, and start to go toward future applications of new learning.
- Be mindful of others; be respectful of their dignity and aware of their vulnerabilities as I stay professional with my feedback. Choose language that is humane and growth producing. Watch my body language and my trigger words so that I am not moving others toward ‘Ouch’ but instead toward ‘I see.’
It took me a minute (well, a few), but I will check out my colleague’s website. Here’s to moving from ‘Ouch’ to opportunity.
Jennifer Abrams, a former high school English teacher and author of Having Hard Conversations, is a professional developer and consultant who works nationally and internationally with schools and districts around coaching, collaboration and supervision. She writes about finding one's voice in her monthly newsletter, Voice Lessons, found at her website, www.jenniferabrams.com.
A version of this blog was originally published on her website, www.jenniferabrams.com.