Teach & Serve
No. 11 * October 13, 2015
Related Content from And There Came A Day:
- Teach & Serve No. 10 – “Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable”
- Teach & Serve No. 9 – “Gratitude – Saying “Thank You”
- Teach & Serve No. 8 – “Have I Properly Confused You?”
- Teach & Serve No. 7 – “If You’re Not Research Based, You’re Shadow Boxing”
Everyone Knows This Is a Bad Idea
How often do we consider if the language we employ is clear? How often do we strive to get clarity from those with whom we are speaking?
Walk into the faculty room in your school. Try to be unobtrusive. Find a seat in the corner and settle in. You won’t be there too long, I promise.
Okay, now, listen. Take a moment and listen to the conversations around you. They are going to be between your colleagues and about your colleagues. They are going to be among administrators. They are likely to be unfiltered.
Then, note when things like this are said:
“All these kids are not doing their work.”
“All faculty members have to be at their desks working on a Teacher Work Day.”
“Teaching five classes in a day is really hard.
“This app well really work well for you.”
“My Department Chair hates me.”
A question: how long do you think you’ll have to wait to hear these sorts of statements and do you think you’ll hear very many of them?
I think I know the answers to both of those questions. You won’t have to wait very long and you’ll hear many statements of this or similar nature.
The problem with these statements is that are not effective forms of communication. They don’t accurately convey what someone means to say. They employ nonspecific language specific – words that don’t hold enough meaning – that doesn’t carry the weight of effective dialogue.
John Grinder and Richard Bandler developed what they called The Meta Model as a tool to challenge non-specific language with an aim towards improving communication among adults. I’ve not done a hard and deep study of The Meta Model, so I won’t pretend here to be an expert. What I will say is that employing a handful of their techniques to challenge non-specific language aided me greatly in my role as a teacher and administrator.
I often applied their Meta Model theories to search for deeper meaning in what I was hearing.
If I heard “all these kids are not doing their work,” I could challenge the statement by saying “You really can’t think of one student who is doing all her work? Aren’t there any who are doing all that you ask?” The tone with which I asked the question and the seriousness with which I approached it depended, of course, on the particulars of the situation, but asking questions like this generally forced a more clear communication and helped me get to the root of the teacher’s frustration.
“All faculty members have to be at their desks working on a Teacher Work Day.” Statements like this, ones I often made myself, are easily confronted with a question: “What happens if they are not at their desks?” This question is so healthy, we might consider asking it more frequently… “what happens if…” is very powerful.
“Teaching five classes in a day is really hard.” Okay, sure, but “how is it hard?” Let’s get to the root of your concerns and then we can try to do something about them.
“This app well really work well for you.” Man, I heard statements like this more than a few times in my last years in the classroom. I might well respond “How will this work well for me?” An answer to this question could be quite helpful.
“My Department Chair hates me.” There are many variations on this statement, aren’t there? “Why do you think your Department Chair hates you?” “What evidence do you have that your Department Chair hates you?”
Whiles some of these responses may seem trite and others may appear too incendiary to say, challenging non-specific language – asking for that language to be elucidated – is a necessary step in good communication. When you are a leader in a school, clear communication is, obviously, very important. Taking steps to ensure it is a good goal for one to have.
If you’re interested, you can find works by Grinder and Bandler at amazon.