Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Present & Persuade

by AJ

A confession: Im a rotten co-worker.... and an even worse employee. One one hand, Im a super passionate teacher.. highly dedicated to my students. On the other hand, Im an anarchist by nature and loathe "authority". Which is all well and good... and nothing I hope to change.

But. At times Ive let my loathing of authority make me timid. Ive taken a stealth approach at some jobs (typically at large rule-bound organizations I knew I could not influence). This is a wise choice when working for a large bureaucracy, though the far wiser choice is not to work for one in the first place! The "typical" school is a place that beats down passionate teachers. Bring up a new idea, and you are instantly assaulted by the devil's advocates (a very accurate term by the way). Try something and "fail", and you are quickly reprimanded. Its always "management by complaint". Ken Blanchard calls this style "Catch them doing something wrong". Not surprisingly, this kind of management breeds a rule-bound, slow to change, boring approach. Its an ever downward spiral... passion is quickly exterminated... first in teachers, then in students.

My current school is not a large bureaucracy. It is a new language school, just under a year old. Its a small school. It has an incredibly energetic and passionate director. In many ways, this school reminds me of the Alcove Youth Shelter.. the social work agency Im always praising. This is a school that is open to innovation... open to new ideas... open to change, growth, evolution.

And its not only the director. The teachers are also excellent... energetic, knowledgeable, personable. While our teaching approaches vary widely, we share a strong dedication to growth and improvement.

But until now, Ive followed the old approach. Still smarting from the uptight bureaucrats at my last job, Ive kept quiet at my current school. But this is a mistake. This school is nothing like my last job, and Ive been foolish to follow the old approach.

I now realize that communication, presentation, and persuasion are just as important with co-workers as with students (assuming the school is an open, innovative, and flexible one). Just as we need to win students over, we also need to win over peers and administrators. By doing so, we can create an amazing synergy... tapping into the brains of our peers... and helping them tap into ours.

Doing so requires two things. One, as Ive mentioned, is an organizational culture dedicated to innovation and egalitarianism. Dont bother trying to change a mammoth bureaucracy, its an exercise in futility & frustration (my advice- quit and find a better job).

Secondly, we need to develop our presentation and persuasion skills. As teachers, we are presenters... and not just to our students. We are also presenters when we attend staff meetings. We are presenters when we discuss ideas with administrators. The better we are, the more we can effect change.. the more we can influence the school (not only our little classroom).

Given the proper environment, synergy is possible. At the Alcove, our small team constantly brainstormed. We supported and helped one another. It was a place that preferred to say "yes, lets try it" rather than debate worst-case scenarios. We fed off each other's energies. We piggy-backed off each other's ideas. We encouraged each other, complimented each other. In the process, we kicked ass. We rapidly improved and expanded the agency's programs (in terms of quality, quantity, and funding). Our clients benefited tremendously.

And so did we. It was a wonderful place to work... fun, exciting, inspiring. I actually looked forward to work (a rarity for me :)

My current school has the same potential. And so I will depart from my tight-lipped habits-- and make greater efforts to communicate with the staff, as well as students.

Hopefully I can help create the same upward spiral of energy, fun, passion, and innovation as I experienced at the Alcove.