Jennifer Abrams -Consultancy that informs, inspires, and empowers VOICE
August 2009

Happy August!

There was no "Voice Lessons" newsletter sent out in July because I truly had a summer break.  I spent two weeks doing Wilderness Travel's tour of Machu Picchu and The Galapagos.  Both locations were magical, inspiring, and actually great fun.  (Pictures sent on request.)

I am not a sailor, I don't normally spend time on yachts or fishing boats, and I am not (or was not) one who snorkels.  So this 600 miles west of the coast of Ecuador boat trip was a new experience to me. I have been 'metabolizing' my learnings from the trip; and have let them simmer over the past two weeks so that some of my key learnings could come to the surface. 

Now I have my own back to school essay, "What I Learned On My Summer Vacation." For me it's about having in 'beginner's mind' and a 'beginner's inner voice' – something I think we should all cultivate and find compassion around, especially as we welcome our incoming students and our new teachers.

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!

Having Beginner's Mind

Asking for Help/Offering Help

I know they suggested bringing my own mask for a perfect fit.  I didn't pay attention. So I brought my dear friend Laura's mask instead.  And, like many novices, I didn't have the right 'stuff'.  I was in an environment that was beyond new.  I didn't know about currents, or how cold ocean water could be, or how to suction your mask to your face so salty water doesn't to go into your nose.  And with salty water coming into your nose, things get a little anxiety producing.  I panicked.  I don't normally lose it.  I like to think I am in control.  In this environment, I was not in control. I was vulnerable.  Seriously vulnerable.   The boat had one crewmember close by in the ocean near me.  I was swept up and whisked back to a panga boat where, shaking, I figured out how to climb up and pour myself back into safety.  While I sound like a drama queen, I really was frightened and then really grateful.  I was taken care of in a moment of panic. When I think of new students and teachers in new courses, 'drowning', truly not in their safest environments, I now have much greater empathy.  It is darn scary and you cannot even put into words how much help you need.  Saltwater is going in your nose.  We sometimes just need to scoop up the new teacher and student and put them back in a boat so they can catch their breath and ready themselves for another try.

Be In Awe

I did get back into snorkeling – however short the segments and inelegant the breathing, I did have a chance to try it a few more times.  Once I heard a muffled sound next to me and a finger pointing – it was a sea turtle – elegant and buoyant and amazing – and in a moment of wonderful surprise I grabbed two people on both sides of me and gripped their hands shouting into my mask, "Turtle!  Turtle!"  I was in awe.  I wanted to share the awe.  Avery, the 11 year old, sweetly giggled at me on the boat later that day.  "You were so excited you shook me!"  I was.  I wanted to shake everyone there.  Do you see what I am seeing?  How magnificent it is?  (For poetry fans, it was my Mary Oliver moment.)  I wonder how many moments in school we walk around not noticing and not being in awe.  The students' faces when they are taking a test and engrossed and wanting to do so well; the pride they feel when they express themselves.  The moments of joy and new learning.  One of my intentions is to be more aware to the awe-some moments this coming year.

When It Gets Bumpy

Crewmembers say when you feel motion sickness the best thing to do is to go down into the hull of the ship, lie down in your cabin and be quiet in the darkness.  I actually think it is great advice for us all, on or off boats.  When it gets bumpy, go within.  Go down into your own cabin and lie down in the dark until the world stops spinning.  Until you are able to find your balance.  Then come back out, into the sunshine. Suction that mask onto your face, jump on in and try again.

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Cool Resources

Here is a cool blog, a magazine and a website for this month.

Professionally Speaking is Ian Griffin's blog around "professional excellence in public speaking, speech-writing, and executive communications."

I have enjoyed his blogs that help me do things with a "Speakers 101" approach.  Help with using a Flip camera, signing up for Twitter, etc.  A former speechwriter for Hewlett Packard, Ian is down to earth and easy to listen to and to read.

The Sun magazine is doing a personal writing retreat at Esalen October 30-November 1 and I am joining in.  Whether you join in on the retreat or just read the journal online or get a subscription, I find The Sun to be what it says it is - a 'personal, political, provocative' journal.  The July issue had an article that I will share with my Equity=Excellence training team called "By the Color of Their Skin:  Tim Wise on the Myth of a Post-Racial America." Check it out at

Sam Keen's home page on his website has some pretty awesome questions if you are feeling you'd like to journal a bit on the existential. As he says, "Human life is a journey whose end is not in sight. Searching, longing and questioning is in our DNA. Who we are and what we will become is determined by the questions that animate us, and by those we refuse to ask. Your questions are your quest. As you ask, so shall you be."  Check him out at

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!

August 10
Being Generationally Savvy
Opening Leadership Team Retreat
Jefferson Union High School District
Daly City, CA

August 20
Being Generationally Savvy
Field Mentors
Intern Teacher Preparation Program
Alliant University
San Francisco, CA

August 20
Collaboration and Coaching Skills
Residential Faculty and Prefects
Woodside Priory
Woodside, CA

Aug 21-Sept 7 
Elements of Instruction/Habits of Mind
Koc School – Istanbul, Turkey
Izmir SEV Elementary School – Izmir, Turkey

For additional upcoming events, please visit my Web site.

Until next time,


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© 2009 Jennifer Abrams | Email Jennifer | 4290 Wilkie Way #L, Palo Alto, CA 94306 |  (650) 858-0699


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