Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lessons from the Limb #8: "Fight Right", Y'all!!!

So ... we got in a fight ...

Alright, alright, we didn't get into a real fight, but we did have a disagreement - quarrel? dispute? clash? squabble? - about partnering up students, of all things, and we had to work it out. And while we did eventually come to an agreement in regards to student partnerships, the bigger take away we had was about communication and essentially how to "fight right". KH recently read a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin ...

You can find it on Amazon here
... and one of the things that stuck with her the most was the idea that couples with healthy relationships "fight right" - they don't bring up past wrongs, they are able to laugh and joke amidst a spat, they try to really hear what the other person is saying, and they let things go once resolution is struck. While we are obviously not a couple, we think the principles of "fighting right" still apply because in many ways our relationship mirrors the components of a true marriage.

So with the idea of "fighting right" and the desire to improve our communication process, KH launched a conversation basically about how we felt our disagreement went and what we could do better in the future. This conversation, in true KH and KM reflective fashion, became a meta-analysis of our disgreement, almost like a post-game breakdown recapping each moment of the fight and where, if anywhere, commincation failures could be pinpointed with the hopes of avoiding them in the future. Now before you think we're crazy - though we admit you may have a point at times - we did this because we wanted to improve our communication, we wanted to make sure that when we were quarreling that we were still "fighting right".

We're sure that you are DYING to know the details of our squabble but, alas, we are going to disappoint you because this entry is not really about the fight itself, but what we learned from having the fight in the first place and then analyzing it together.

Realization #1: It is important to restate things to make sure that both of us are hearing the same thing.

     Revelation: Sometimes we are talking about two completely different things and we don't even realize it! Fail! Other times, we are saying the exact same thing - we actually agree! - and we don't even realize it. Double fail! Not a productive way to communicate.

     Resolution: We are going to work on following up key agreements in discussions by rephrasing. For example,

Realization #2: It is important to be crystal clear about what we've agreed upon.

     Revelation: Most often when we debate or disagree on things, they are complicated issues - regardless of what you may think after reading about our Alpha Wolf struggles for dominance. We have to sort them out and make a plan one layer at a time. What we have a tendancy to do is keep moving the conversation forward without being explicit about what we have agreed upon and what's still undecided. This either leaves us in the position of ending our conversation in a cloud of amibiguity ...

... or we keep rediscussing things we've already agreed upon. Either way, it's a waste of precious time and, as KM would say, "We don't have time for this nonsense!"

     Resolution: Well, our first plan was to hire a man named Icarus to act as our scribe and follow us around recording our agreements.

And while we're still holding out hope that someday we'll find him, in the mean time we're going to work on synthesizing exactly what we have agreed to BEFORE we move on, with each of us weighing in with a yes or no to confirm.

This all may seem ridiculous to the outsider, but one of the things we value most about our professional relationship and something we believe is essential to our success as a team is our ability to talk about and learn from our ups and downs. It would be so easy to let things fester or just leave things as they are, to accept the status quo, to not rock the boat and not push ourselves to dig deeper, but we are true believers in continuous improvement and that includes our professional relationship with each other, not just the pedagogy. After all this reflecting and discussing, analyzing and soul baring, our FLY AWAY is this: without communication and trust, collaborative teaching cannot reach its true potential for both the students and the teachers.

We'll leave you with this final reminder:

Stay classy, my friends!

From the limb,

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