Sarah Silverman paid the medical bills of the twitter troll who called her the c word. She did not turn away nor condemn him. She engaged him an exchange on twitter. They had a conversation for the world to see. She told him she saw something in him and believed he could live a great life. Her empathy and willingness to listen was not lost on the world. It was not lost on her troll either.
Andrea tells me that we cannot learn unless we bump into many many implications and experience beliefs in all different contexts before we truly change our mind. The kicker is that we do everything we can to avoid changing it. We can convince ourselves that we are open and that we want to lean in and listen deeply to learn from others.
What happens when we bump into someone who is absolute in their beliefs and they don’t buy what we are selling? You have been tasked with the learning for a district and you and your co-leaders and learners are not only adverse to each other’s methods but truly do not have the same moral imperative. You believe two different houses are burning down. You contradict each other, you have different philosophies about the adult learning model and you see your learners differently. Carlina Rinaldi confirmed everything. After her there was clarity about listening and to be open to being in crisis and in a state of frustration. We love the crisis when it’s in ourselves but we resent the people who refute it with the absolute. “To be open to the others means to have the courage to come into this room and say, “I hope to be different when I leave, not necessarily because I agree with you but because your thoughts caused me to think differently.”
We found out that we nod a lot. AKA compromise. The compromise dismisses the possibility of crisis and learning and we acknowledge that we ‘not’ listen back.
We are not Sarah Silverman. We fake sit beside because we can’t figure out what questions to ask to shift their beliefs. In fact, we begin to listen for everything we think we already know about the stakeholders and what they believe… motivated reasoning. It’s manipulative and all of the conditions fly out the window. We have convinced ourselves, more than once, that we have to be patient and that they will figure it out. It will spiral back around. Is patience insulting? Or is patience trust?
Do they have to eventually believe what we believe? What if they never do? Should we bump harder into that than into the “like minded”? It doesn’t feel good and is not magical nor cozy. It’s hard. Their beliefs matter. What if we trusted them as learners? We would have to listen harder. Empathy is a bumpy road. It’s not a fair-weather condition. I have strong beliefs about respect, patience, and simple human kindness. They are non-negotiables. But beliefs are up for consideration. If we are going to learn, really learn, we have to seek out the absolutes, the yellers and the hand slammers, the sarcastic, the ironic and those who simply have different thinking and different data. If we don’t, we haven’t learned a damn thing.
A: When is your house burning down?
K: I think everyone who comes to the table to facilitate educator and student learning has some understanding about urgent student need. We bring who we are and the experiences with students we have daily or have had…we have bias and we have data and at some point they squish together and we get learning goals and the purpose of the learning team. We bring our perspectives and our beliefs. We bring passion. We use the words “the house is burning down.”
Monday morning, 5 am backsy forthsy…
A: Is the purpose of learning to come to a consensus?
K: It feels like it. We like things to feel whole. If the whole school is swimming really hard in the same direction how can it not be the “right inch?” This just took to me back to the committed sardines video: blue whale takes 5 minutes to turn 180 degrees.. A school of sardines only needs 15 % to cause “friction” to turn and the whole school turns very quickly. Can the consensus be open to changing on a dime?
A: I don’t know. That would mean that there is one right answer. The right answer we keep coming back to is our default, the status quo, defined by a power structure. We are in a crisis, but we may not all be participating in a dialogue about it.
K: Why does learning have to be about an answer at all? Why can’t the consensus be about not answers but figuring it out – the culture. I think the compromise is settling on the answer. Time/urgency is a condition that leans into compromise. Compromise – concessions by both sides – could that be a condition – listening or does if have mean giving up something?
A: The figuring it out together is critical – your coherence sardines have to collaborate, listen. Collaboration, not to compromise (using both perspectives when you can’t agree on one) or following a singular belief/perspective. True collaboration + creativity and critical thinking will take you to a new perspective – a place that neither has ever been before.
K: It’s why I love the pro pro. Forces us to think forward. We love what we love and know what we know. We don’t naturally seek out a different perspective. We listen politely. I have come to understand the need for the ‘tools” for critical thinking. Collaboration and creativity feel like skills other people have time for…we value compromise right here.
A: The hurry up and learn. Infinitely expandable industrial model. We think we just need more stuff, more staff, more consensus. It would be so very divine if we slowed down enough to listen to the crisis and frustration. What if we could shape the truth together?
K: How do you essentially ask people to come to be changed from simply listening – not compliance but the kind that puts you in the place of questioning what you believe when they have so much to do? Where is the value?
A: The value is the conversation itself. The Tao of Pooh.
K: It’s the ‘I don’t know,’ but you have to move towards it…
A: My daughter Elise has the courage to do this. She is four. And so, she trusts herself enough to ask why, to reflect, and to listen to herself. I love watching her make meaning. And I trust that she will.
K: Can you purposely enter a crisis with someone you don’t trust?
A: Sarah Silverman had that trust. Not necessarily trust for the troll because she didn’t know what would happen, but trust in herself. Empathy has two sides; your feelings and the feelings of another. It was because of trust, that the crisis of the c word led to Empathy. Make no mistake. It wasn’t the moment she replied with compassion. It was the moment she dug deep into his timeline and found out who he was – and saw herself. Amid the crisis and the collaborative dialogue and the making of truth and meaning – you have to listen to yourself and your own feelings. You learn.