November 30, 2018
Ah, the provocative title. ‘Thanks for nothing.’ Kind of snarky and self-pitying, right? But never fear, the story turns out to be a positive one.
I was complaining to my friend, Shirley, about a circumstance I found myself in that I felt was unfair. I had had a hurtful interaction with a colleague and it left me feeling weak and small.
Upon hearing the details, Shirley’s response was priceless. “How wonderful to have this experience. I think I would send that person a thank you note if I was you. You won’t put yourself in that position again. What a gift.” It was just the perspective I needed.
As we just celebrated Thanksgiving in the States, I am sending a thank you out to those who I haven’t had the chance to thank. Because if it wasn’t for that perceived slight or straight up rejection of my work or a bruising negotiation with these folks, I wouldn’t be the person I am.
* Thank you to the admin team at my former high school who didn’t select me to be the Dean of Students the year I applied. Best rejection I have ever had. Had I been offered the job I might not have been open to becoming a new teacher coach or written books – all prompted by being told ‘we didn’t pick you for the job.’
* Thank you to those who told me I shouldn’t teach administrators because I never was one. After a year of feeling small and not thinking my work was valid for a wider audience, I realized one comment, even one from someone with status, doesn’t need to stop me from doing something I think is helpful and worthwhile.
* Thank you to those who reviewed my first book and responded, “No coaches should learn how to have hard conversations. Only principals should do that.” Your words helped me craft my response to that perspective and go on to bring humane and growth-producing conversations that are declarative into the main for those who have a coaching role.
* And thank you to the Mark, who in my 30s broke up with me, and said, “I am used to dating women with long hair and short skirts and you have short hair and wear pants. You are a lot of person.” Best breakup line I have ever heard. Made me want to be even more of a person. Thank you, M.
My friend, Pier Angeli, after listening and listening to my tales of woe over the years, said to me once, “Enough with the story. What is the lesson?” I am seeing the lessons so much more quickly now. Less time between perceived wound and healing. Less time between disappointment and possibility. Working on my recovery time every day. Who do you need to send a thank you note to?
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!
Clarity: What Matters Most in Learning, Teaching and Leading by Lyn Sharratt. Corwin writes, “Comprehensive in scope, CLARITY illustrates how system and school leaders must come together to boost student achievement and build teacher capacity to learn, teach and lead. By emphasizing collaborative processes, Lyn Sharratt’s detailed design demonstrates how shared knowledge, equity and expertise can make every classroom more impactful and every teacher more empowered.”
Next time you want to rage, try this act of radical imagination is a quick meditative video clip from the PBS Newshour shared by Lauren Groff.
On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old by Parker Palmer. Amazon writes, “Drawing on eight decades of life — and his career as a writer, teacher, and activist — Palmer explores the questions age raises and the promises it holds. “Old,” he writes, “is just another word for nothing left to lose, a time to dive deep into life, not withdraw to the shallows. But this book is not for elders only. It was written to encourage adults of all ages to explore the way their lives are unfolding. It’s not a how-to-do-it book on aging, but a set of meditations in prose and poetry that turn the prism on the meaning(s) of one’s life, refracting new light at every turn.”
About 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.
Work with Jennifer
Praise for Jennifer
“Our school’s work with Jennifer Abrams has sown the seeds of stronger communication skills among the adults in the building. This has only served to strengthen the integrity of communication between staff and students as well. We’ve added her language to our expectations: honest, humane, and growth-producing conversations occur regularly.”