Lately, I have spent a good deal of time reading on airplanes. The Alchemist was suggested to me as a choice for one of those long flights and as I finished that sweet parable, I sat with one of Coehlo’s lines. “Be aware of the place where you are brought to tears…that’s where your treasure is.” I am fully aware that my place of tears, and treasure, is in a theater. No question. Lights go down, music comes up, curtains open and the ‘once upon a time’ feel in me starts to stir. I love the theater. Sitting in my seat in the darkness, I rejuvenate, I reconnect, I “re-member” myself to humanity.
I was reading Mamet’s Theater while on the same flight and sat with this quote as well. “[L]ecture has no power to unite. For as much as we hail the correct proclamation of the apparent truth, we, the audience, have had no experience together. We, the audience, were merely stuck at a lecture. But the drama is, essentially, people stuck in an elevator.”
And I thought, “That’s it!” That is why I love the theater and that is why I don’t give keynotes. Join me as I explain more fully.
Why I Don’t Give Keynotes
Being Stuck in An Elevator is a Good Thing
My hope is that my Having Hard Conversations workshop is a safe but authentic experience akin to being stuck in an elevator and ultimately finding your way out.
Many of us come to trainings with a problem. We want to solve that problem. We want ‘out of our elevators.’ We want to better teach a given group who aren’t readily accessing the curriculum. We want to be better at giving difficult feedback to a supervisee. We want to better understand how to use a given protocol, computer program or new tool - we are looking for answers. “The hours in the elevator…are the communal hunt for a solution.” If trainings are designed well, they are communal experiences in which we all help each other solve problems and get ‘unstuck’.
I appreciate the “take aways” I acquire from listening to a keynote. I gather information and I gain insight into another person’s research. Yet I don’t feel as empowered, moved or satisfied at the end of a keynote as I do at the conclusion of a great workshop. If we facilitators have done our jobs well, we have not only offered an opportunity to obtain new knowledge and skill, but we have moved our audience emotionally - to a place of less ‘stuckness,’ more resourcefulness and more awareness. I know I can be encouraged to find all that in a keynote, but in that hour while someone else speaks, I don’t work out of my own elevator and I don’t help others do the same.
We are all actors in our lives. We are all trying find the right words, work through our conflicts, and connect to others in the scenes that play out day to day. Great workshops engage us to become the lead actor, to be in charge of our own script, and to unite with other actors to get out of our individual and collective elevators. Doors can open. Bravo for us.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at Jennifer@jenniferabrams.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
Here is what I am raving about and reading this month.
Tarell Alvin McCraney’s The Brother/Sister Plays– I spent a ‘Marathon Sunday’ watching all three productions and was mesmerized. McCraney’s plays are ‘fertile with ghosts’ – mythic, lyrical, and just damn brilliant. They will be staged by three theaters in the Bay Area in the fall. Go.
Treme on HBO – This soulful show stars New Orleans as its lead character and has residents of that city ‘stumbling among the immensities’ of post-Katrina recovery. The performances are so true and Steve Zahn is a delight to watch. I drop into my heart every time I watch it.
The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande – a journalism colleague sent this to me upon reading my last newsletter about communication in hospitals. While the foundation of the piece is effective communication between surgeons and their teams, this message should extend way beyond the medical field.
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!
Book Study – The Choreography of Presenting
Academics and Professional Development Department
San Francisco Unified School District
San Francisco, CA
Having Hard Conversations
Literacy Lead Teachers Training
Palo Alto Unified School District
Palo Alto, CA
Equity=Excellence Training Team End of Year Retreat
E=E Training Team Cadre
Palo Alto Unified School District
Palo Alto, CA
“Voice of the Teacher” – Reflection and Celebration
New Teacher Induction Program Symposium
Simcoe County School Board
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 newsletter in whole or quote with attribution to Jennifer Abrams and a link to www.jenniferabrams.com