I have been part of several groups, both in personal and professional contexts that have been difficult to part from. These colleagues/work groups, and social groups held deep, meaningful relationships as well as clearly established goals, norms, two-way communication, and commitment. The relationships contributed to the difficulty in parting ways, as did the positive feelings obtained through our work together. I do not think there is anything like being part of a highly functioning, positive team; the team works together, problem solves together, and stands by one another. It can be rare to find a group of people you truly mesh with, and once you find it, it can be incredibly sad to leave. A common closing ritual among the personal and professional groups I have had to depart from has been a potluck meal. We come together out of our usual contexts, sit and eat together, laugh and talk. We try to avoid talking about simply the work we have come together for, and talk about our families, memories, and anything else on our mind. I hope that at the end of our master’s program, we will be able to have time to wind down together and share contact information for future support. We usually do take the last week of each class to say our thank-you’s and well wishes to those in our group, but hopefully we can come together as a class to congratulate one another and share in the happiness of this magnificent achievement. I think the adjourning stage is important and frequently skipped over. I have worked in several groups with my colleagues and when the task is complete, we go our separate ways, only to see each other on rare occasions. I think this process is important because it brings closure and an opportunity to celebrate success and identify things that maybe did not work so well and ways to change them. After spending time getting to know those in a group, and building close relationships while working towards a common goal, it only seems natural that the group would take time to say “thank you”, “congratulations” and “good luck”!
October 23 marked the day I gave birth to my first child, my wonderful baby girl, Morgan. Despite the fact that I have been working with young children for over ten years, I quickly learned that caring for a newborn was a whole new ballgame, even one that blogs, friends, doctors, and parenting books can only mildly prepare you for. Although the stress, chaos and (hopefully!) sleepless nights of the newborn phase are slowly winding down, the dynamics of going from a couple of two, to a family of three is still something my husband and I are working on. I think we have adjusted and are fairing well, but there are situations, circumstances, and miscommunications, which pop up frequently that cause escalated emotions and at times, arguments. Some of these situations include dealing with family input regarding how we parent our daughter, tackling household chores, and most frequently, finding time, energy and patience for one another. Reviewing the information presented on the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) website, I was able to identify two concepts/strategies that I feel would be valuable to my situation: clearly expressing needs/desires/wishes, and empathetic listening. I have a hard time asking for help, and when I do, it is not always purely expressed. I can certainly admit to asking for things in a roundabout way, and when they are not done to my liking, getting frustrated and turning requests for help into demands. NVC advocates that individuals clearly express their needs in order to get them met through acts of compassion. Asking for things according to NVC could save substantial frustration, loss of patience and energy when communicating with my husband. Also, deep, empathetic listening without judgments, evaluations, and assumptions can eliminate communication disconnects, and allows needs to be met. “Through its emphasis on deep listening—to ourselves as well as others—NVC fosters respect, attentiveness and empathy, and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart. The form is simple, yet powerfully trans formative” (The Center for Nonviolent Communication, n.d.). This clearly has huge potential to strengthen my relationships with my husband. I am also willing and open to hear any input or advice you, my fellow group members may have on this subject, so please feel free to share away!
The Center for Nonviolent Communication. (n.d.). The center for nonviolent communication. Retrieved from http://www.cnvc.org/
Completing the assessments to measure myself as a communicator, and further, having my husband and co-worker fill them out, was an experience that surprisingly generated a bit of anxiety. I know the ways in which I feel I am a good communicator and areas I may need some improvements, and REALLY hoped that was evident to my assessors; there is nothing like having confidence in something you feel you are good at, only to have someone inform you this is not the case! My anxiety was quelled, however, when reviewing each test after completed by my husband and co-teacher. The scores were all relatively similar – give a take a few points. One thing that surprised me from this activity was the ability of my husband and co-worker to rate my communication styles rather efficiently in the contexts with which they are familiar, and those they are not. For example, my husband does not see the ways in which I communicate and engage with co-workers and teams in meetings, which is obviously different than the ways I communicate with him at home. I wanted to use assessors from two different environments to see if this would be the case, and in fact it was. I think this surprise led to an insight this week regarding communication, which is, even though we communicate differently depending on contexts, settings, and audiences, I think there still is a predictability in our communication methods. Although I do communicate differently with my husband as opposed to my students and co-workers, he was still able to accurately predict how I might communicate with them, and, the same for my co-worker.
My teaching experiences, and marrying into a culturally diverse family have provided me with many wonderful experiences to learn about culture in the world around us. I grew up in a white, Christian, middle class suburban neighborhood with little to no diversity among the population, so I can say I had, a still have, a lot of learning to do! I do not know if I communicate differently among different cultural groups, but I will say that I tend to step back often, observe, and take on the perspective of a learner. I guess I can become fearful of doing or saying something that would offend an individual of another culture, which is why, as I mentioned I tend to do a lot of observing. Another aspect of communication with others of another culture I have learned is the significance and appropriateness of asking questions. Again, this was something I dreaded doing, out of fear of being aggressive or offensive, but have learned this is not always the case. My husband has many Filipino members of his family and I have taken the time and energy to learn about their culture. My mother-in-law always encouraged me to ask questions if I was unsure of something they were doing or saying, because as she pointed out, it opens up the dialogue for meaningful conversation and is the only true way to find out something of which I was unsure. This has given me confidence to ask young children and their family members, as well as community members or colleagues to ask questions when I do not understand something.
Three strategies I recognize as important in communicating with a variety of individuals I am actually ‘stealing’ from one of this week’s resources, 50 strategies for communicating and working with diverse families (Gonzalez-Mena, 2010, p. 81:
- “Become consciously aware of nonverbal behaviors. Although you may be used to reading messages that come from posture, movement, facial expressions, eye movements, gestures, and relative distance, realize that across cultures, these behaviors don’t necessarily mean the same thing”.
- “Recognize that learning unwritten cultural rules of nonverbal communication takes time and patience. The best approach is to be aware of differences and to read the feedback from the parent of family member exhibiting them. Try different approaches if you are picking up discomfort in your attempts to communicate.”
- “Don’t expect that just because you know a person’s culture you can predict his or her behavior. Few cultural patterns are rigid or apply to all members of a culture. Furthermore, cultural patterns change when they come in contact with new patterns.”
Although these suggestions are related to nonverbal behaviors, and written for teacher implementation, I believe they are relatable and helpful for any type of communication with any individual.
Gonzalez-Mena, J. (2010). 50 strategies for communicating and working with diverse families. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
For the purpose of this assignment, I attempted to find a television show I knew little to nothing about (a difficult task!), and landed on “Nashville”, which I learned is a show about the converging lives of two country music singers, Rayna (an established singer) and Juliette (a young, up and coming singer). While watching the show initially without sound, I assumed many things, in particular the personalities of the two main characters, which I based solely on nonverbal behaviors including eye contact, facial expressions, body positions and movements, gestures, and physical contact with others. I also assumed displays of an array of feelings and emotions based on these nonverbal behaviors, and in fact came up with a list of over 15 emotions I believed were being conveyed. Watching the show again with the sound, I believed my assumptions to be fairly accurate as I learned about the lives and relationships of Rayna, a genuine performer struggling with a somewhat diminishing career and family relationships, and Juliette, a young, flirtatious, and at times condescending artist who is struggling with family relationships of her own. I was also able to pick up on the competitiveness between the two as their lives become increasingly intertwined. From this assignment I have learned several things, including the reliance on nonverbal behaviors I used while initially trying to navigate the show without sound. I had to pay close attention to the show without being able to hear it and felt like a carefully detailed observer and detective at the same time. I also recognized the role of assumption in attempting to determine relationships, plots, and personalities. In this case my assumptions were fairly accurate but I think in many real-life situations, these perception-based assumptions can be inaccurate and can severely impact the relationships, communications, and exchanges we have with others.
When thinking of someone I deem a competent communicator, my supervisor, Tanya, was the first person that came to mind. Even before she was my supervisor, I admired the way she led presentations and trainings. She speaks eloquently and professionally, and takes the time to educate herself thoroughly on the topic at hand, which translates into an appropriate level of self-confidence. Once she became my supervisor and I began engaging with her one on one, I further admired the ways in which she lets you know she is truly listening by maintaining focus and eye contact. She is a busy woman, but when you are conversing with her, you feel like you are her sole focus for the time being, and she communicates with a level of mutual respect. A trait I observe in her that I hope to be able to emulate at some point in my career is the ability to maintain a balance between speaking confidently and professionally, while not appearing to talk down to others. I have worked with educators in the past who have felt the need to “dumb down” conversations with parents, and even colleagues and co-workers, and have come off as being over-confident and egotistical. Although I do not feel this is something that I have done or do regularly, I hope to display Tanya’s balance between communicating in a way that is educated and professional, while also a conveying a feeling of respect through two-way communication.
One hope that I have when I think about working with children and families who come from diverse backgrounds is that they continue to enter only increasingly more welcoming environments, whether it be on the education, social services, or health fronts of early childhood. Making children and families feel comfortable is a priority for all, especially for those who may experience bias or discrimination outside of our walls.
One goal I would like to set for the early childhood field related to issues of diversity, equity, and social justice is to continue to make it a topic of priority, and to continue to delve deeper into the “how’s” and “why’s” of these issues. I feel like I have sat through countless diversity trainings throughout my career that have been surface level; they talk about the significance of diversity and acceptance, and share few, simplistic strategies to use in the classroom (EX: make sure you have multicultural books and materials) but share little else. I think this can lead educators, myself included, feeling stuck as to how we can do more. Classes such as the one we are completing do address diversity and discrimination at a deeper level and would be beneficial to so many in the early childhood field.
I am sending a large thank you to all of the wonderful group one team members. It has been a pleasure to work with all of you throughout this course, and I have enjoyed hearing your stories, thoughts, and responses on the blogs and discussion boards. I appreciate all you have added to my education and wish you all the best of luck in your careers and in your remaining courses ahead.
The country I selected for this assignment is Mali, located in Africa. Although I have heard of this country, I do not know any substantial information about it. If I were preparing to interact with a family from Mali, in order to maintain culture responsiveness, I would:
1. Ensure a translator was available to communicate, if necessary, and begin learning the language of the family that would be helpful in the classroom when communicating with the child and family.
- Take the time for a sit down with the family in which we would be able to discuss their experiences, culture, beliefs, and goals, as they feel comfortable.
- During this sit down, I would be sure to build common ground in sharing experiences among us, but also listen to, and appreciate the differences.
- Maintain a positive attitude regarding the situation, and convey to the family that this is a learning experience for myself as well; I would encourage them to share information with me to get to know them better, and not to hesitate to correct me if happen to mispronounce or misunderstand something.
- Continue to learn about the family and their culture throughout our work together.
Reading through the list above, I would hope my attempts to display cultural responsiveness would promote feelings of ease and comfort to the family. Moving from one country to another that is radically different would have to be an extremely stressful situation, and I would hope that the family would feel our classroom would be at least one safe place they could come to, to receive support and understanding. For myself, as an educator, this could be an incredibly learning experience, and an opportunity to learn more about the unique cultures of those living around us.
The Personal Side of Bias, Prejudice, and Oppression
An experience I have had with bias, prejudice, and/or oppression did not occur for me until later in life, when I began my first year teaching in a community in which I experienced being a minority for the first time. I was walking through the school office when I noticed one of the parents of a student speaking to the secretary in a raised voice; she was speaking Spanish so I did not understand the entire conversation, but I did hear the word “gringa” repeated several times. I waited until she left, and asked the secretary if everything was okay. She nodded yes, and changed the subject, but I could tell there was more than she was telling me. I asked her again and she told me the parent was upset because her child had a teacher who would not be able to speak Spanish to her or the child, and thought I was just a white, stuck-up individual. Initially tears filled my eyes, and I felt worthless. All of the energy I felt I brought into my first year of teaching felt like it was removed from my body. I think equity was lost in this situation as I was not able to participate in the discussion, and felt like I was being judged solely on my looks, before the parent had even gotten to know me as an individual. In order for this situation to become an opportunity for greater equity, I would have appreciated the opportunity to acknowledge her concerns, and come up with a plan of communication to make her feel more comfortable. In the end, I do feel she came around once she saw my interactions with her child, and the outreach I invested in to make her feel heard and respected with regards to her child. Although this was one situation that brought up many emotions internally, I am aware that there are far more severe situations that individuals deal with on a daily basis pertaining to bias, prejudice, and oppression.