In the Bardo

June 1, 2020

Sheltering in place – Week 10. Meditating more than I was before, walking a lot, and sleeping on one time zone. I am also really looking at my emails – clicking on those links and reading those attachments – reflecting on life, the world and the universe. Deep diving into my mind – my thoughts, my aspirations. Change is afoot. It’s the end of the world as we know it…

Speaking of this moment in time, my colleague, Jim Brown, one of the most wonderful superintendents I ever had the pleasure of working with, sent me a link to an article in Lion’s Roar. The article was written by the Lion’s Roar staff in 2017 (!) and was entitled, What’s a Bardo? They wrote, “Bardo is the Tibetan term for the intermediate state or gap we experience between death and our next rebirth…. In that momentary space of freedom, the fresh perception of something new and awake may suddenly arise.”

Hmm. “[T]he intermediate state or gap we experience between death and our next rebirth…” This moment is a bardo. It is one of loss and of newness, of sadness and of possibility. It is the multiple choice answer ‘E’ – all of the above. And, we need to ‘mind the gap.’ Stay awake.

I have been invited to comment and to pontificate (?) on this time in our history. Via podcast and Zoom interview, virtual summit and webinar – you name it, folks are doing it. ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste,’ someone said. ‘Let’s make sure things are different on the other side.’ Our classroom pedagogy, our use of technology and more – we have the opportunity to shift on many fronts. AND, if you know me, you know I am thinking about the psychology of things – the emotional side of change. This isn’t an ‘either or’ proposition– it’s a ‘both and’ moment. As they say on Monday Night Football (sorta)…”Are you ready for some feelings?”

John Vasconcellos, a former CA State Senator gave us words for our roles at times like this. Speaking of change, he said, “We must become both hospice workers to support the peaceful dying and letting go of our traditional culture, and midwives to gently usher in our emerging culture of trust and mutual regard.”

You’re right – as an educator or a nurse or non-profit leader you didn’t ‘sign up’ for being a hospice worker or a midwife, yet here we are – donning the garb, living the part out loud… and it’s required of us to do so. We are in the bardo. Our familiar patterns are no more. We need to support others to let go of the past and to move into the future with as much compassion as we can. Growing into bigger selves – ones who help others bear the losses and bring ourselves into a healthy future. Join me.

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

Cool Resources

Since 2008 I have been writing this newsletter (find 2008-2014 archives here), and I do believe this is one of the only times in 12 years that I have decided that the ‘cool resources of the month’ are my work. These are two of my current webinars. Been doing them with schools in Asia, South America, and soon Canada. Would love to work with you and your school, District or Board as well. Check out the offerings. More online opportunities to come.

Information on Two ‘Now Happening’ Webinars

Communicating in Challenging Times

In this time of uncertainty and urgency, we don’t get many opportunities to slow down and to think about the language we use in our communications with others. And unfortunately, we can end up, without thinking before we speak, not as successful as we should be in getting our messages across. We need to build up our skill set around messaging capabilities, our ‘resistance management’ strategies, and for the sake of our health, our ‘stress tolerance.’ This 90-minute webinar will provide support and a laugh to help you communicate more effectively in these unprecedented and uncertain times.

Who Should Attend? Leaders at all levels from superintendents to school admin to department heads to team leads, certificated and classified department leaders and school board members too. (Webinar based on the books, Having Hard Conversations Unpacked and Swimming in the Deep End)

Having Hard Conversations with Parents and Families

As administrators and educators, we come up against situations where difficult topics must be addressed with parents or guardians and now more often than not we are having these difficult conversations on a Zoom call or through email! What questions should we be asking ourselves before we speak, and what language is best for when we do speak, especially to parents at such a stressful time? This session will provide participants planning and scripting tools for having those necessary but possibly challenging conversations with parents and families.

Who Should Attend: All educators from administrators to classroom teachers, teachers of students with special needs, social workers, teaching assistants, et al. (Webinar based on the books, Having Hard Conversations and Hard Conversations Unpacked)

Time Frame: 90 minutes per webinar

Training Materials: Packet with all information provided to attendees

Participant Numbers: 30 attendees maximum per session

Costs, testimonials, and further information provided by request. I am always open to customize other webinars as well or do book studies with a group on one of my books of your choosing. Just ask! Email me at jennifer@jenniferabrams.com.

About Jennifer Abrams

Jennifer Abrams

Jennifer Abrams considers herself a "voice coach," helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague and supervising an employee. Jennifer holds a Master's degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California. Jennifer's latest book is Swimming in the Deep End: Four Foundational Skills for Leading Successful School Initiatives. Her previous publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course by the same name.

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Praise for Jennifer

“I hope you are well. I approached you right after your morning session on hard conversations to thank you for the amazing workshop. I shared that I am tough to impress. Equally, important, I never smile. Nonetheless, your approach elicited a genuine excitement and passion for the work.”

John Wilson, Curriculum Director
Atlanta Jewish Academy, Atlanta, GA