I have written in the past about "thinking before you speak", and this is something I commonly practice, but I have recently had to think about this in a different context. I am usually thinking about other people's feelings, when I speak. I have never really thought about the fact that people might actually be listening to the content of which I am speaking.
I have shared in past posts, that for a good 10 years, I was pretty much silent on my campus. I was friendly, I chatted and had people that I spoke to at school, but in groups, I was silent. In 10 years of staff meetings, I didn't say ONE WORD. Not because I didn't have ideas, opinions...I just didn't think they mattered. In the staff lounge, I would try to speak a few times, but EVERY TIME; I would get talked over, so I just stopped trying and eventually stopped going in there. In my 11th year, we had a change in administration and this new administrator, for whatever reason, took an interest in me. She encouraged me and valued me, I began to think that maybe I DID have something to contribute and started opening up and speaking in those staff meetings. This same administrator, somehow encouraged me, nudged me...maybe coerced me into presenting with her. Boy, was this out of my comfort zone!
I remember that first presentation as a defining moment for me. When I spoke, people were nodding their heads. Hmmm... When I spoke, people asked questions. Hmmm... When I spoke, people wrote it down. WHAT? When I drew a pictorial explanation, people took pictures. WHAT? WHAT? This was surreal to me. As this was all happening, I had one of those moments that you read about. I was presenting, but at the same time observing the participants AND talking to myself in my head. It went something like this: "These people are actually listening to me. Why? Wait a minute, are they writing this stuff down? OH NO! Why are they doing this, what am I saying?" This was just all so new and strange to me.
Fast forward to my current position where I am in constant contact with teachers and administrators and am often speaking and presenting to groups. I am still in awe that people are actually listening...actively listening. I know this, because months, years later I will hear: "Remember that time when you said..." *Usually I don't remember, unless it is one of my many "Key Phrases". But here is where is gets "sticky". Since I work IN the district office, sometimes when myself or my teammates speak, people hear it FROM the District Office. This is just perplexing to me and still not something I am comfortable with. I often do not think that way. If it is something from "the office" I will say it. I have now found myself saying things like "This is not a District perspective/opinion, this is a Cori perspective/opinion." Unfortunately, what I have learned, is it doesn't matter. AND people remember things you say. I found this out when I was talking "off cuff" in a meeting one afternoon and my words were repeated back to me verbatim, the next day. WHAT? I didn't even remember what I had said, but someone apparently took copious notes on it.
So now I have this need to really think things through before I say them or do them. I am not used to these "politics" as I have just recently found my voice. I didn't realize that there were limitations. This becomes complicated when social media is in the mix. I have found myself backing off of Twitter, recently, for this reason. Things I have said in my 140 characters or less, have come back to haunt me...taken out of context, misunderstood. And instead of asking me about it, I hear about it through the grapevine. This makes me gun shy to say much of anything.
But here is what it boils down to. I only have ONE purpose, both personally and professionally: DO GOOD. Anyone that knows me, knows this. In terms of my position, everything I do is driven by doing what's best for teachers and always the students. That's it. There is nothing more I can do than state that and follow it up with my actions.
I just have to now speak and act as if people are listening and watching, because apparently they are. This is one of those times where I am in constant limbo. I have said before, we are all leaders in our own right. This is why I write this. Someone is listening, looking, learning. This holds true for being in the classroom. When we are with those students, ALL eyes are on us. Even when we don't think they are listening or watching, they are and we must act accordingly. When we are parents, we don't often realize it, but our children are ALWAYS watching and learning. So what do we do?
All I can say is what I always say: Be true, be you, be authentic, be kind. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Speak with purpose, act with intent. We can't control how others interpret our words, our actions, but if our intent is clear; we can only hope that our message is clear, as well.
Mother, teacher, TOSA, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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