Monday, June 10, 2013

How 23 Individuals Became a Community

The 5 Tribes from OISE Room 212, June 2013
I was away from my school for the entire week of June 3-7, 2013. I wasn't sick and I wasn't playing hooky; I had the great fortune to be at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) building facilitating a Tribes TLC training for recent University of Toronto Faculty of Education graduates and other people from around the province that signed up. I've conducted many Tribes courses, but I particularly enjoyed this 24-hour training with these people.

What made it so wonderful? It was the people. The eight modules that form the Tribes basic training are designed to help create a safe and welcoming community of learners, but as I've said before, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. These adults chose to give up four days of their time and voluntarily pay an additional fee so they could understand how Tribes works and how they could use it.

(I took several photos during our time together, but in the interest of respecting their privacy, I'll only share some of the shots of the art or displays we posted in the classroom.)

The agreements with our symbolic stuffed animals.
Last week's blog post touched on one of the four agreements (attentive listening) and today's blog post will focus on a different agreement - appreciations. In our sarcastic world today, it is almost counter-cultural to give a genuine appreciation to someone. Thanks-giving is a gift, one that should be accepted in the spirit it is given. We need to learn how to give and receive appreciations appropriately. When we first began giving appreciations to each other in the training, it felt artificial, but as we discussed, students (of all ages) need practices to be modeled, and having sentence starters (such as "I really liked it when ..." or "I appreciate ..." or "Thank you for ...") help make the appreciations we share become more natural over time. I saw the evolution in our own group over the short period of time we were together.  Brief, perfunctory phrases soon gave way to heartfelt, detailed tributes to individuals and groups. During certain strategies, people would choose to provide an appreciation in lieu of another type of contribution.

My two insights on appreciations after this training have been:
1) give people something to appreciate
2) there are many different ways to appreciate someone

To elaborate on the first point ... if you demonstrate to people that you care about them and their learning, even if it means going the extra mile/kilometer, 99% of people seem to notice and appreciate your efforts. The organization that supports Tribes is very firm, and rightfully so, about attending the entire training so that there are no gaps in participant knowledge. Sometimes, life gets in the way, and it helps to try your best to accommodate. You'd also be surprised at the little things that you can do that mean a lot to people. I brought in one of my costume bins from home and people were delighted to raid it for props and tools for different activities.

As for the second point ... I learn just as much from the participants as they do from me, and one of the many things this particular group has taught me is that there are a variety of ways to indicate how much you can appreciate someone. I have no clue how they managed to do this without me noticing, but the group passed around a card and wrote the most incredible and lovely things. One participant is busy creating a painting, symbolizing all the tribes/groups in our class, which she'll share with me and the other members as a way for her to show her gratitude to the team. Another graduate is working on creating the means to keep in touch, realizing that attending the session alone is not enough to sustain and as a testament to the great relations forged during the training. Appreciations can be public declarations in front of others, or private thoughts whispered to an individual in a quick moment. Thanks can be verbal, or visual, or electronic. This is my chance to give one more appreciation, to the individuals that spent a week in Room 212 at OISE and became a community. (School boards - hire these people!) Thank you, for re-energizing and inspiring me.

  • Jenn M
  • Georgette
  • Andrea
  • John
  • Daniel
  • Amy
  • Kim M
  • Natalie
  • Jocelyn
  • Julie
  • Parveen
  • Salima
  • Rochelle
  • Natasha
  • Jenn N
  • Laura
  • Kim P
  • MJ
  • Julia
  • Mary
  • Rosa
  • Eleanor
  • Elizabeth

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