If you’re leading a professional development event or a conference session or an extended meeting sometime soon, here are two great tips from Idaho career educator Darlene Dyer. Though Darlene is five years into her retirement, she’s still thoroughly engaged in the education conversations both in her local area and at the national level. Recently, Darlene was at the Sun Valley Economic Development Summit with a group of her former students.
At the keynote, Darlene heard from leadership developer Lowell Applebaum, whose session emphasized a dispositional skillset we’d like all of our students and colleagues to have: listening to understand v. listening to reply. This kind of listening produces more meaningful conversations, more constructive debates, and a more enlightened society.
There are two techniques that Lowell used to encourage this kind of listening during his session at the conference: I'll call them “Ask Me About…” and “Pick a Picture.”
“Ask Me About…”
I’ll let Darlene Dyer explain this one from an email she sent me.
We all had name tags, but to increase our getting to know each other, he had us all put a sticky note below our names that read “Ask me about…” I filled in “Retirement.” Then we were off meeting others with what they had written as opposed to just their names. I was able to network with a gentlemen about his “new puppy” and another young fellow about his “living on the other side of the world.” He had to stop us because all 200 people were anxious to keep this going!
I can see applications for this in my classroom — can you? It could be an interesting way practice a piece of Palmer's PVLEGS, for example. This would also be a lot of fun at the professional development sessions I run. Fantastic.
Pick a Picture
Darlene shared one more Applebaum technique — and this one I've seen in action and enjoyed in a staff meeting.
The speaker [also] had us… take out our cell phones and find a picture that we could talk about. Then the same routine. I used a photo I had taken last week of a bull moose and a cow standing in the river that runs behind my house. This was fun and a great way to learn something about someone besides just their name and title; it created a stronger interest and memory.
My principals at Cedar Springs High School have done something like this to kick off our staff meetings. It certainly is an enjoyable way to break the ice or build connection at the start of a meeting.
I hope these two techniques spur thinking — and more importantly, meaningful connection — in your own setting.
Thank you to Darlene Dyer, who I met several years ago at a conference in beautiful Hailey, ID.