Jennifer Abrams -Consultancy that informs, inspires, and empowers VOICE
Voice Lessons April 2008

Hello and welcome to the first edition of my newsletter, “Voice Lessons,” where each month I will explore a new topic on best practices in teaching, supervision, collaboration, and leadership. As those of you who have taken my trainings may know, I train and coach teachers and administrators on successful teaching practices, new teacher support, supervision and evaluation, generational savvy, having hard conversations and effective collaboration skills.  My goal is help you find your ‘voice’ in whatever role you are in - supervisor, coach, teacher or colleague.  During my trainings, I learn terrific applicable tools and skills from my participants, and in the development of new workshops I am always finding an article, website or a book that I want to share with others. These newsletters are designed to provide you with effective communication tools to make your work easier and more productive, and your voice stronger and more effective.

If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you!

Hard Conversations

I have been working on my book, Having Hard Conversations.  It is in its second draft and, if all goes well, will be published by Corwin Press in 2009.   Below is just the start of an extended list of questions one should be asking before she makes the choice to have a hard conversation.

Hard conversations come in all forms and sizes. At school, they might involve teachers, administrators, parents or students.  They take place behind desks and in the hallway.  They can range from a formal evaluation, in which you tell someone he won’t be returning next fall, to the briefest comment to a colleague about being on time to a meeting. They are difficult to have whether you are giving feedback or receiving it. But having hard conversations in school are essential.

When faced with having hard conversations, for many of us our first impulse is to avoid speaking up.  If we are honest with ourselves, we know that this response doesn’t help us improve teaching and learning, and it doesn’t make our schools thrive.  As teachers, we know both support and challenge contribute to growth for students.  So why don’t we use a healthy balance of both support and challenge when working through difficult issues with our colleagues?

So whether you’re faced with a gossipy colleague or a belittling supervisor, there is a better way to have the hard conversation, whatever the conversation needs to be.

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A good starting point is to understand clearly your feelings about the problem.  Ask yourself:

  • If I am hesitating, why?

  • How can I get to a place where I feel ready and comfortable sharing what needs to be said? What information do I need?   What emotions do I need to deal with?

  • What am I trying to accomplish, and if I speak up, will it move me toward or away from my goal?

  • Am I willing to experience the discomfort that might come as a result of bringing up this topic?

Then think about what to communicate:

  • What explicit professional teaching or work behaviors am I focusing on?

  • Is there specific and reliable evidence that I can share?

  • Once I share my thoughts, what are my suggestions for next steps in order to fix the problem? 

  • How will I continue to be of support as the problem is corrected?

And finally, think about how to communicate:

  • How might I write up our first few talking points and/or sentences?  

  • What language will work for this conversation and what words might just trigger the individual and thus stop her/him from listening?

  • Where should I have this conversation so it has the best chance of being effective?

These questions are just the beginning, but provide an initial framework for the internal discussion you need to be having before you speak up.  Of course, each conversation should be handled on a case-by-case basis.  If you’d like to get an even more extensive list of questions,  hear more about having hard conversations, or have specific hard conversations coming up with colleagues you can come to one of my workshops near you, contact me for a one-on-one coaching session, or we can organize a training in your school, district or organization.

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Cool Resources

Upcoming Events

Each month I will share with you information about a few of my upcoming trainings.
If I am going to be in your area, contact me so we can say hello, hopefully in person!

April 3           
Being Generationally Savvy

Region 4 - Association of California School Administrators Training
Pittsburg, CA

April 4
Effectively Coaching Teachers of All Generations

Peninsula New Teacher Project
San Mateo County Office of Education
Redwood City, CA
(open to the public – contact Jennifer at 650-868-1916 for information)

April 18        
Having Hard Conversations

Governors State University Symposium
Chicago, IL
(open to the Public -contact Jennifer for more information – 650-868-1916)

April 21-22  
Effective Coaching Skills & Generational Savvy for Instructional Coaches

Language Arts and Reading Coaches
Miami-Dade County Schools
Miami, FL

April 24        
How To Coach and Facilitate in Resistant Environments

Moving Schools Forward
Instructional Reform Facilitators Training Forums
San Francisco Unified School District
San Francisco, CA

April 30      
Engagement Strategies to Facilitate Student Learning
Balboa High School Professional Development
San Francisco, CA

For additional upcoming events, please visit my web site.

Until next time,



Feel free to forward this newsletter to friends and colleague. You may reprint this newletter in whole or quote with attribution to Jennifer Abrams and a link to

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© 2008 Jennifer Abrams | Email Jennifer | 4290 Wilkie Way #L, Palo Alto, CA 94306 |  (650) 858-0699


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