Jennifer Abrams -Consultancy that informs, inspires, and empowers VOICE
April 2014

Being a Co-Learner – Learning Alongside Colleagues

Happy April! It was snowing as I left Toronto last week but inside it was Spring – people were growing and new ideas were taking root. I facilitated a newly 'commissioned' workshop - Coaching for Equity. (Send word if you want more information.) Part of my introduction every morning by my colleagues in Peel District School Board was that I was there to 'co-learn.'

The role of co-learner is one I am growing to hold even more tenderly and with greater appreciation. I know might sound a bit silly – after all, adults are adults, right? We can handle a bit of 'turbulence' in our professional learning – as we roll out initiatives, look at student work, put our thinking out for feedback, etc., correct? Well, that might be true for many – AND for myself, and for those who are in my facilitations and workshops, I request that the co-learning experiences be growth producing and humane. Here are a few thoughts and quotes I added to the mix last week as we were continuing on our learning journey in our roles as co-learners.

Harriet Lerner's quote started the day – it centered us and reminded us all to be our best selves.  "Our conversations invent us. Through our speech and our silence, we become smaller or larger selves. Through our speech and our silence, we diminish or enhance the other person, and we narrow or expand the possibilities between us. How we use our voice determines the quality of our relationships, who we are in the world, and what the world can be and might become. Clearly, a lot is at stake here." (@harrietlerner)

John Vasconcellos, former California state senator, has been quoted as saying, "We must become both hospice workers to support the peaceful dying and letting go of our traditional culture of fear and cynicism, and midwives to gently usher in our emerging culture of trust and mutual regard." To identify with those sacred roles while working with colleagues, for me, adds deep meaning and purpose to the work as a co-learner.

One of Linda Lambert's adult learning assumptions informs all of my professional learning. Adults are always in the process of 'identity formation' – becoming more of who they are.  We aren't ever done growing.  We aren't done becoming, period.  We are always working with a present tense verb, not a past tense one.  When someone gets a new job it is assumed they are 'ready.'  We are always 'readying' ourselves.  We need to be generous with one another as we grow.  Shoot, I get up and try to design new adult learning experiences everyday.  I ain't always "ready," but I am willing to show up and work on the next draft.

Which leads me to this quote by Alain de Botton. (@alaindebotton and  If we are always growing – emphasis on the "–ing" – then we need to continue to receive feedback and be open to it.  De Botton says, "One of the greatest gifts is that of being good at disappointment: having non persecutory, speedy, resilient emotional digestion."  Boy, wouldn't that be a gift. Having a good constitution for feedback. Here's to being a humane co-learner!

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

Cool Resources

At the California Association for Independent Schools Annual Conference in March, I attended a workshop on "Gender and Sexuality Diversity" for Pre-K-5 teachers, facilitated by Jennifer Bryan. It was fabulous.  Jennifer's explanations of gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation have assisted me in doing my equity and inclusivity trainings with more awareness and understanding.  I encourage you to check out her book, From the Dress Up Corner To The Senior Prom: Navigating Gender and Sexuality Diversity in Pre-K-12 Schools and to learn more about Jennifer's consulting work. Really cool person to know and know about!

This was the month of conferences.  I also attended ASCD's annual conference in Los Angeles and got to meet Jeffrey Benson in person. Jeffrey is the author of the Ed Leadership article, "100 Repetitions", an article that has been transformational in my work. Jeffrey also has a new book out, Hanging In: Strategies for Working with the Students That Challenge Us the Most and a great consultancy. He is mensch – check out his work.

You know me. I love questions.  And, I am working on living with more ambiguity and uncertainty.  So this Fast Company article, "Scared Of Failing? Ask Yourself These 6 Fear-Killing Questions" was a good one for me to read this month.  Terrific links to new bloggers and authors all the way throughout. Very inspirational.

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 7                        
Having Hard Conversations
Maine Principals' Association
Augusta, ME

April 9
Having Hard Conversations Pre-Conference
Council for Exceptional Children Annual Conference
Philadelphia, PA                                             

April 24                          
Being Generationally Savvy
Stanford Hospitals and Clinics
Palo Alto, CA

April 25                      
Having Hard Conversations – Part 1
Association of California School Administrators
Host: San Ramon Valley USD
Danville, CA

For additional upcoming events, please visit my Web site.

Until next time!


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