Observations of a Staff Meeting

Day #18  #SOL17    slice-of-life_individual

Some Background:

Our district has had a committee working for two years on an English Language Arts adoption for the district.  I’ve noticed with these adoptions that it’s difficult to get concensus when dealing with K-12 curriculum.  Our K-5 elementary building has embraced a balanced literacy approach and use the Daily 5 Cafe philosophy.  Some staff members are worried that this approach is being threatened by a district adoption.  Recommendations are being made and the timeline to choose your resource  for the next 10 years is upon us.

The Assignment:

In our building, each grade level must get together, decide what resources you need to best support your students and present your thinking at the next staff meeting. Great idea in principal.  The staff meeting that followed was… in a word…. unexpected.

The Crazy Clash:

Maybe I should have expected it knowing that our staff is very passionate about teaching all subjects, but especially literacy.  It started with the 2nd grade team chomping at the bit and asking to be the first to present.  They barely started, when a Kindergarten teacher, that has worked very hard on this committee, interrupted, disagreed, shook her head, threatened to email head of the committee. I mean… whoa, what just happened?  I won’t bore you with the rest of this meeting, but let’s just say that when I left, I was shaking and upset.  I wasn’t the only one.

Civil Discourse:

As I’m thinking about this very uncharacteristic staff meeting, I’m reminded that we, as a nation, have forgotten how to have a civil discourse. We try to teach our children to respectfully disagree. But do we model this? What are they observing?  I shouldn’t leave a staff meeting upset and shaking.  I shouldn’t be feeling threatened by ideology and opinions in our country.

Kenneth J. Gergen describes civil discourse as “the language of dispassionate objectivity”, and suggests that it requires respect of the other participants, such as the reader. It neither diminishes the other’s moral worth, nor questions their good judgment; it avoids hostility, direct antagonism, or excessive persuasion; it requires modesty and an appreciation for the other participant’s experiences.

I typically try to keep my posts on the shorter side and more light hearted, however, apparently I really needed to write about this today.  Thank you for reading.


18 thoughts on “Observations of a Staff Meeting

  1. You make such an important point here, and I for one am glad you wrote about this topic. The art and practice of Civil Discourse seems to have been lost recently. And who is modeling it for our kids if teachers can’t do it? I love the Kenneth Gergen definition at the end…something we all ought to strive to achieve as professionals. Thanks so much for a well-written and thoughtful piece (loved the structure).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My husband and I noticed that after we have watched a segment on one of the 24-hour news channels, we are testy with each other. The solution for us is to stop watching talking heads yelling at the camera! I agree that civil discourse seems to be a lost art these days. As individuals and good citizens we can lead by example. We can’t change the narrative until we become part of it. I’m so sorry that your meeting devolved into a clash that left you shaking. I hope that writing about it helped.

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  3. I would have been just as upset had I been in a meeting like that. Civil discourse is a hot topic these days with the things that are going on in this world. As adults we need to be civil, be aware of our intentions and our audience.

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  4. You nailed it! This lack of civil discourse is permeating our lives in aspects we’d never imagined. It is sad when passionate dedicated teachers leave a meeting feeling shaken and upset, rather than inspired and curious. All we can do is BE THE CHANGE and gently remind others to assume best intentions of all. I feel your pain. Thanks for this post.

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  5. I was feeling anxious as I was reading your post. We need to communicate and debate with an open ear and heart. There is no room for selfish motives. Coming to a consensus for K-12 is challenging. Each grade level band has different needs; there is no one size fits all. And, Vicki Vinton shared a graphic from Reggie Routman https://howeprincipal.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/img_1103.jpg
    We need to establish our beliefs first, followed by our practices and then our resources. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well, it started with “in your face” stuff on tv (reality and wrestling) and has permeated our society as the acceptable way to “win an argument” – which weren’t supposed to be arguments anyway. And it is difficult nowadays to teach a child when there are no role models left.

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  7. Wow, sounds intense and I would have felt the same way walking away from that meeting too. I feel that in general disagreements tend to be more heated and emotional these days… we should be able to and know how to respectfully disagreee. Good quote you shared too about having mutual respect for the other party, their experience, and their opinion

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  8. You have nailed it! People having opposing views do not know how to have a 2-way conversation, listen to each other and respect the other’s viewpoint, even if they don’t agree with it. Instead, people have been reduced to screaming at each other, thinking that the louder one will win the argument. There is some hope. Part of our 5th graders’ ELA curriculum is to research an issue – both sides of it – and debate it/have conversations using reasons and evidence. No yelling is allowed, which is actually difficult for them at first. Thank you for posting and starting a conversation about public discourse.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Giiirrrrrrl – I hear you! I noticed the dichotomy you pointed out between my slice and yours. It truly is the flip side of the coin – and believe me – I have been where you are. Passion is one thing, but belittling others’ feelings and only being concerned with our own opinion is not OK. How do we get that back? Maybe people need time to list out the things they are tied to and simply cannot live without and then work from there when looking for a new adoption in literacy? I’ve also found that working from a simple, yet deep-seated set of core beliefs is key to everything when it comes to working together as a team. Good luck to you!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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