Jennifer Abrams -Consultancy that informs, inspires, and empowers VOICE
June 2011

The past few weeks, I have seen the inside of many a plane, many a school library and many a darkened theater.  My newsletter this month is a compilation of musings as I travel here and there noticing when we benefit from rules and requirements and when we don't.  When do rules and expectations serve and when do they stifle? When should we speak up and what does it take for us to take a stand? Call this a 'field trip to Jennifer's brain in the spring of 2011.'  Somewhere, in all these 'moments' is a theme, a moral to the story.  Perhaps something will jump out to you as well.

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

Rules and Regulations
When Do They Serve and When Do They Stifle?

Airplane Regulations
I have traveled on three different airline carriers in the last two weeks.  One carrier requires you to not use Bose headphones until you have reached 10,000 feet.  You can use ear buds, but not Bose headphones.  You can swap out once you get high enough.  The other carriers don't care - wear what you like.  One airline requires that the bag going into the overhead bin be a certain size and that certain size is different than the size required by the other airlines.  (It is a smaller size...resulting in my bag on that flight needing to be found at baggage claim.)  Today, the flight attendant said that while waiting for the bathroom in the back of the plane one needed to stand in the aisle and not come into the area where the flight attendants have their carts and coffee.  Never heard one that before.  All of these 'different' policies and restrictions made me think about students and all the different requirements and routines they need to learn, teacher by teacher.   What a discouraging and annoying moment to think you got it right only to be told by the next teacher you got it wrong? Ah, wouldn't it be loverly to have the same basic expectations each class period and not be worried about flubbing up around essential routines and rituals?  Might we then be able to focus on more transformational moments of learning? 

Bird Cages at the Shaw Festival
I saw a great production of My Fair Lady directed by Molly Smith at the Shaw Festival in Ontario, Canada.  In Molly's 'liner notes' she spoke of the play being one of 'deep emancipation.'  The set was full of birdcages for most of the performance.  They visually represented all the ways Higgins wanted to mold and restrict Eliza, her voice, her dress, her mannerisms.  Ah, the cages we place ourselves in. It is true; Eliza came to Higgins for this makeover and his 'routines and rituals' could help her be 'successful' with a certain set of people. Yet Eliza grows to realize that too many rules stifle, smother and suffocate (and self-absorbed teachers don't help, either). She does leave (and birds fly across the back of the stage at moments of emancipation) but ultimately she returns. I am still uneasy about the 'Where are my slippers?' ending, and if I should be happy or afraid for Eliza.  The cage might have seen its door open, and yet....

Sartre's Hotel Room
And finally, I had the pleasure (and the pain) of seeing No Exit at the American Conservatory Theater.  In Sartre's play, the three characters are in hell and hell is a hotel room.  No mirrors, just three chairs and seemingly no exit.  No exit from their internal mind chatter and no exit from each other.  The verbal sniping and expressions of anxiety go on for 70 minutes, each one spiraling down into a depression and sad madness until, in a moment of surprise for all, the door opens!  Freedom!  Liberation! And then... Freedom??  Liberation??  Given a glimpse of what could be, the characters look out, look around and then - they all go back in and shut the door.  A punch in the gut.  What hotel rooms have I been living in and (horrors!) choose?  Jean Paul, you got me good.

Cool Resources

A plug for a few cool organizations that are in the business of helping folks find their voice plus piece of eye-opening writing...

Highlighting the work done by some amazing Millennials, check out the Summit Series. “Summit Series engages the world's most dynamic dreamers and doers through curated events and initiatives designed to make the world a better place. [W]e work to inspire the millennial generation to redefine what success looks like in business and in life. Through an annual conference and community-based digital platform, we set the stage for people to forge lifelong friendships, spawn new business ideas, tackle world issues, and in turn, make our world a better place."

There has been many a push to promote teacher leadership lately - to create social networks and platforms for teacher leader voices to come through and to codify what it looks like in practice to be a teacher leader.  Check out the Accomplished California Teachers (ACT) website and blog for the latest in what teacher leaders are writing about nationwide.
And check out the Teacher Leader Model Standards crafted by the Teacher Leader Exploratory Consortium. “The teacher leader model standards can be used to guide the preparation of experienced teachers to assume leadership roles such as resource providers, instructional specialists, curriculum specialists, classroom supporters, learning facilitators, mentors, school team leaders, and data coaches (Harrison & Killion, 2007)."

Just for fun, read an eye-opening article that will make you even more aware of how we all truly see the world through the lens of our nationality.  Evan Osnos has written a terrific piece in The New Yorker about his experiences as an American on a European tour with a group of Chinese tourists in The Grand Tour: Europe on Fifteen Hundred Yuan a Day

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!

June 1
Foundational Mentoring Skills and Being Generationally Savvy
Preschool for All Program
Chicago Public Schools
Chicago, IL

June 16
Having Hard Conversations
Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula
Monterey, CA

June 17
Being Generationally Savvy
Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula
Monterey, CA

June 24
The Power of Presentation Skills:  Successful Strategies that Work
Center for Education
Stanford Hospitals and Clinics       

July 4-5
Having Hard Conversations
Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-sud
Toronto, Ontario

For additional upcoming events, please visit my Web site.

Until next time,


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© 2011 Jennifer Abrams | Email Jennifer | 4290 Wilkie Way #L, Palo Alto, CA 94306 |  (650) 858-0699