Have you ever received pushback when sharing, “I did…” It’s common. Eyes rolling. Arms folding. It’s a problem.
In conversation about this with others, it was easy to accept the ideas they suggested to not use the word “I.” Those sharing the solution used the word “I.” They used the word “I” because it’s their way to solve the problem of pushback and that’s how the issue needed to be framed and could be framed in our trusted conversations. They found a problem, and they solved it, and they shared it, using “I.”
To dig into this idea further, perhaps in some schools, the trust among teachers is too low and the willingness to share to further improve student learning is also not developed.
Teachers are professionals, yet coaches and others continuously, not purposefully, intrude on that professionalism.
The sad thing is, that we want people to share, so to not be able to use the word “I” to put oneself out there, take a risk, and share “your” classroom strategies, without “eye-rolling” and pushback. — that is a problem.
So, yes, a strategy suggested is to use the word “we,” as in the above paragraph.. Asking inviting questions [ “Has anyone tried…”], another suggestion, also works.
Still, people need to feel safe to share; teachers need to share their ideas and experiences so the school knows, teams know, and peers know the ins and outs of what instruction and learning is occurring.
So, what else could be done so everyone is actively listening and willing to share?
How can this negative mindset be flipped for active, interested engagement by all staff?
This is a problem for many innovative leaders.
One strategy making the rounds again is establishing “norms” of behavior everyone will agree to, such as:
- Honest and forthcoming with communication
- Speak up and ask clarifying questions.
- Respect others’ ideas positively; listen and engage respectfully.
- Be interested
- Be professional, on time, prepared.
However norms like this can also receive pushback since norms– well, don’t they seem obvious?
Perhaps a reminder of the school mission and purpose statement at the beginning of the sharing meeting would be helpful. Again, this keeps the vision on “ours” and “we” in mind: our goals are the same; we can learn together.
Perhaps the sharing could be framed as a possibility with the listeners sharing afterwards what could work in their classrooms, so that everyone is using the “I” word.
Perhaps sharing the Two Rules of Improv used in Pixar as explained by Randy Nelson for Edutopia would help develop a more accepting mindset (video at end of post).
The two rules are:
1. Accept all offers
2. Make your partner look good.
How could “the offer,” the sharing, be more acceptable?
Share reflectively. Reflection includes what one would do next time to improve. As Randy Nelson says, it’s “error recovery, not failure avoidance.” Frame the sharing as a problem solved. People share “I tried this…, and next time I would…” which shows a willingness to recover, improve, and master.
How does the listener make their partner, the sharer, look good?
Listeners are interested when they know there’s a dilemma, and so accept the offer. And listeners must not judge or make suggestions for the sharer; instead they accept the share as a starting point and build or adapt a possible version for their own work. According to Randy Nelson, this is collaboration: amplification of ideas. “Possible” means they don’t have to actually do it, but they are interested and have given the person sharing an acknowledgement. This is where technology helps; perhaps open a Padlet for sharing these possible amplifications. Again, this is a mindset shift: be interested in what others have to offer, not just share what is interesting, and collaborate: each listener accepts an offer of ideas and amplifies a small idea which opens up possibilities for everyone.
And sharing of something actually done shows a “proof of a portfolio, rather than the promise of a resume,” as Randy Nelson says. These conversations framed as collaborative amplification to build ideas for everyone could build trust, gather ideas for everyone to improve, gather input for portfolios, and perhaps become an entry point for blogging to share further. The word “I” shows risk, reflection, problem-solving, and trust, whether as original sharer or as amplifier.
Somehow, sharing with an “I” needs to be acceptable. Reviewing vision statements, using “we,” asking “I wonder if..” or other questions, establishing norms, and framing conversations as collaborative amplification could help develop trust and focus. Still, sharing needs to be acceptable.
What other ways could the mindset of “I” to build “we” be developed into acceptability?
How about amplifying the idea with yours in this Padlet or in the comments below?
Geeky Gramma ~~
Retired Middle School Language Arts Teacher ~~
Writer and Thinker