When I sit down on Sunday mornings to write this blog, I often have lots of thoughts swirling around in my head about the direction my writing will take. Often, but not always, I have already started a draft earlier in the week. Sometimes, the writing goes in the direction I had been thinking a few days before, and sometimes it goes a completely different direction. This week is a combination of the two.
The other thing that happens as I sit down to write is that I often read the writing of others or revisit a podcast. This happens when I am having a tough time bringing clarity to my swirling thoughts. Today, as often is the case, George Couros‘ writing and podcasting were the inspiration I needed to settle in on today’s writing.
What you are reading is some form of a draft that I had begun after listening to George Couros’ Mindset Monday Podcast, Season 2, Episode 3.
When differing opinions arise, and they always will, we have some decisions to make about how to handle them. We have a choice. We can engage in an argument and go for the “Win,” OR we can go for the “Listen to understand,” and “Acknowledge others’ ideas, even if you disagree with them,” approach. This is not at all to say that we should avoid tough conversations or debate; quite the opposite. I am advocating for avoiding trying to win an argument, because in the end, nobody wins.
Two situations from this past week came together after revisiting the above podcast and reading a quote in George’s weekly email. The quote, from Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People, was just what I needed to gain some clarity in today’s writing. “You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Why? Well, suppose you triumph over the other man and shoot his argument full of holes and prove that he is non compos mentis. Then what? You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior. You have hurt his pride. He will resent your triumph. And –
A man convinced against his will
Is of the same opinion still.”
Earlier this week, I joined a meeting with a team of teachers who were frustrated with their students’ general performance. Prior to my arrival, there had been lots of discussion about what their students can’t do, and how our curriculum isn’t helping the matter. I have written PLENTY about my feelings about the importance of mindset and having success with a curriculum… or any initiative that comes our way. Anyway, the meeting escalated until one of our instructional coaches pointed out that the meeting had taken a negative turn. Silence ensued. The coach wasn’t trying to silence the voices of the teachers. Instead, she was trying to make the following point:
I’m certain that the teacher team was beyond frustrated that their deluge of frustrations had been stopped. I’m certain that the instructional coach was frustrated that the environment in the room was not a healthy one. I’m also certain that all parties involved have the same desire: to do what is best for kids and to achieve high levels of learning for our kids. So let’s hear each other out, and then adhere to a norm that is a driving force in our Professional Learning Communities in FMCSD: “Be solution-oriented and forward thinking.”
At yesterday’s IHSAA District Wrestling Tournament, where wrestlers compete to “punch their ticket” to the Iowa High School Wrestling State Tournament, emotions were running high, as they always are at this high-stakes tournament. These athletes have worked incredibly hard throughout the wrestling season: they want a one-week extension to their season in the form of a trip to the State Wrestling Tournament.
In a particularly down-to-the-wire match, one of our wrestlers was down 17 – 5; in the last seconds of the match, Ike hit a pin, winning the match. Our crowd was over-the-top excited, cheering and yelling. You can picture the scene.
Sitting below our cheering crowd was a group of high school girls who were cheering for the opponent. After Ike’s win, they swiftly turned around and made gestures for our crowd to sit and be quiet. I went into teacher/parent mode, and made a “cut it out” gesture to the girls, shaking my head and said, “Don’t do that.” This escalated their anger to the point that one of the girls began yelling at me. I ignored her, which was easy to do, as our next wrestler was up, and I was on to cheering for his win (which he made happen with a pin!).
In both scenarios, emotions were running high. In both scenarios, the parties involved could argue, or could recognize that at the end of the day, we both want the same thing: what is best for others. In the case of the teacher team: what is best for kids. In the case of the wrestling fans: what is best for our athletes.
In early January, I had written about Emmett and (what I perceived as) his decision to finish his wrestling season strong. As it turns out, after that week of successes and perceived change in mindset, Emmett finished his season wrestling “flat.” He had some wins, but his heart clearly was not in it.
The lack of a “punched ticket” to the state wrestling tournament was determined in his first match yesterday, which he lost by being pinned in under a minute. Losing the first match at the district tournament = no state tournament. He did go on to win his next two matches, each with a pin, ending his season with a winning 25-22 record.
It will be interesting to see what the kid chooses to do next year, his final year of high school. IF he chooses to wrestle again, the advice he will receive from his parents is this: do it for the right reasons. Do it because you want to wrestle; do it because you enjoy the sport; do it because you recognize the benefits, including that camaraderie that was mentioned in the early January post. Oh… and do NOT cut so much damn weight. Emmett, who was weighing in at 140 pounds before wrestling season, wrestled at 126 pounds this year. I’m not going to argue with Emmett about cutting weight, but I will present my opinion on the topic, while listening with an open ear to his! 😉