Teachers Engage in Meaningful Dialogue

Posted on Wednesday May 9, 2012 8:56 AM

The Jewish Early Childhood Education Fellowship for Leadership and Excellence convened for their fourth retreat on April 29. The two-day conference focused on the ideas of reflective supervision and crucial conversations. Facilitated by award-winning education consultant Diana Ganger, the fellows explored how to give and receive more meaningful feedback about their work, as well as how to tackle the most difficult conversations with colleagues and families.

Seattle is the first city in the U.S. to bring Jewish early childhood schools from the across the community spectrum together to collaborate and grow toward excellence in their own institutions and as an overall learning community.

Through small group discussions, fellows unpacked the Jewish big ideas explored in their classrooms and in books read before each conference. Fellowship participants read Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky in preparation for their meeting. Ganger helped them unpack the seven essential life skills or habits in this text that children need to become well-rounded people. For this workshop, the big idea was k'dushah, creating a sacred time and space.

In addition to these retreats, the fellows also come together during bi-monthly Skype sessions with Ganger, who is based in Chicago. To provide increased opportunities for collaboration, Education Services recently launched an online learning environment enabling fellows to share materials, thoughts, blogs, and serve as a forum for discussing their readings.

During every visit with Ganger, one evening opportunity is open to teachers in Jewish schools of all grade levels. In a professional development session entitled "Reflections at the Crossroads," 35 teachers discussed how they can improve their skills when engaged in a conversation that will have a crucial impact on their teaching or a student's progress. Ganger presented tips based on Susan Scott's Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time. Scott defines these moments as "conversations in which we touch one another in some way." Participants defined best practices for engagement, emphasizing the need to plan proactively for these discussions. Ganger noted, "When you want a real dialogue to happen, everyone has to have an equal voice in the conversation."

One teacher said, "I learned a lot of great strategies when in dialogue with co-workers, co-teachers, parents or administrators. It brought the realization to me that I need to think proactively about how others are feeling in a conversation."

The fellowship will continue through June 2013. Educators will take the shared lessons highlighted in the workshop back to our early childhood centers. Additionally, students in day schools and supplementary schools will benefit from teachers' participation in the evening class. This professional development opportunity was the part of a series led by Ganger throughout this year. The last session open to the public will be held June 25; details about all Education Services events may be found at www.JewishInSeattle.org/Educators.