Saturday, April 10, 2021

Small works of art

Today ESSA will offer a short video in which I'll demonstrate matching grain in making a mitered corner box. The video will go live at 10 AM Central time and was made in the wood studio of the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. My thanks to Darla and Hilka at ESSA for producing the video. This page has links to the auction and to the various demonstrations.

I was awake for a time in the night thinking about Teacher EffectivenessTraining and ways that we practice being more effective in our communication with each other. I was first introduced to Teacher Effectiveness Training as a younger man just out of college when working with kids at the Porter Leath Children's Center in Memphis, TN. 

I was a group leader in a summer program for kids who had been selected for the program for having emotional problems. In preparation we were given a three day class in Teacher Effectiveness Training developed by psychologist Thomas Gordon. There is no way that a three day class in such a revolutionary approach to effective relationship building can turn off and around patterns instilled and reinforced over a lifetime, but there's power in the model that would transform the ways we communicate with each other. 

Later, as a parent at the Clear Spring School, my wife and I took a class in Parent Effectiveness Training, and the subject has kept coming up again and again during my time at the Clear Spring School because it works. Two things are to be remembered, and as simple as they are, old patterns of communication are deeply engrained and difficult to reverse. The Effectiveness Training approach involves a strategy of active listening that came from Thomas Gordon's therapeutic approach, and the extremely powerful "I message."  The I message is an assertion about the feelings, beliefs, values, etc. of the person speaking, generally expressed as a sentence beginning with the word "I", and is contrasted with a "you-message" or "you-statement", which often begins with the word "you" and focuses on the person spoken to.

The power of the I message is to claim power in social relationships through the admission of vulnerability. It is not to claim attention for oneself, but does enlist partnerships in the resolution of whatever problems we face. To say, "this is how I feel" carries ownership and responsibility, but also offers "caring others" an opportunity to help and to build bridges of empathy between us. It's odd that when we attempt to assert power over others by demanding, we seldom get what we want, but that when we offer sincerity and admit vulnerability we then have the capacity to change a few things, bringing others along into an effective relationship bringing the potential for change.

Throughout my time at the Clear Spring School, Teacher Effectiveness Training has provided a model for student engagement in conflict resolution, and interpersonal conflict resolution is probably the thing most needed now in this fractured world, and yet, even for us and for me, continuing refreshment and practice of the model is required.

Join us in raising scholarship money for ESSA.

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning likewise.

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