Crucial Conversations ARE necessary

In previous posts I have talked about establishing a collaborative culture focused on learning. I see that one of the roadblocks is shifting practice to one that requires teachers to collaborate also means that teachers must then open themselves up and become vulnerable.

Crucial conversations need to occur… but often don’t, in the interest of not ‘rocking the boat’. Certainly, Kerry Patterson and company did a great job of providing a communication ‘toolkit’ so that we CAN engage in safe, powerful dialogue without hurting feelings and making others angry… but, the fact is, it’s not easy! Making it safe for all collaborators to communicate honestly takes time and the ‘right’ effort in building trust.

Real collaboration just can’t happen if difficult questions aren’t encouraged and explored. One of Rick DuFour’s colleagues, Bill Ferriter, described very well…

I can remember several times where conflict felt like failure to our learning team. We’d have intellectual disagreements about practices and believe that everything we were building was coming to an end. Worse yet, we didn’t have the skills for conflict resolution AND we were fighting against a constant barrage of “be a team player” messages that surround schools… Luckily, we stumbled across a phrase that we drilled into our heads: “Questioning isn’t about the person, it’s about the practice.”

By remembering that simple idea, questioning became safer for those doing the asking and for those being asked… And it worked.

Teachers are so wrapped up in our practices—we own them, we craft them, we believe in them—and in the nobility of our work that being questioned can be one of the most painful and personal “offenses.” It was only when we take the focus off of the person that questioning became safe on our learning team.

Let’s have that crucial dialogue, openly explore and remember, “Questioning isn’t about the person, it’s about the practice.” … we all have room for improvement!


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