We Contain Multitudes

May 1, 2020

Hello from my apartment in Palo Alto, CA, USA. As of the posting of this newsletter, I have been here for 6 weeks. I imagine you all have been sheltering in place for the last month or so as well. Things are topsy turvy and no doubt you have heard from many voices providing solace, inspiration, and direction. There have been symphonies, choirs, piano players, guitar solos, opera showings, Broadway musicals, podcasts, and poetry readings. Something for everybody. What should I, in this newsletter, give voice to that would be of support? I decided that, as Walt Whitman says, we contain ‘multitudes,’ – so here is a bit of humor for your fun side, a bit of what’s up in my book writing for your mind and an word activity for your heart. Determine which facet of your being needs some love and read on.

For a laugh: Nick Heath is a British sports announcer. Like so many, he was at a loss when his work dried up – no sporting events for him to announce! So he started doing live commentary on the day-to-day actions of dogs and people. He has made us see that quotidian ‘goings on’ can be described with so much humor and he offers us dramatic renderings of our ordinary experiences. The videos are delightful. ESPN wrote a story that includes several of his videos. Check it out.

For your mind: My days are spent in contemplation of my next book on adult development – becoming a better self at work. This book is not about the urgent needs of now. This book is about ideas, exercises, and self-assessments which help the reader reach farther up on the hierarchy of needs when there is time to think more aspirationally and reflectively – pushing towards that ‘self-actualization’ peak. Yet, it does offer us a way of answering the question: What can we do as individuals to develop ourselves to be better professionals and human beings in our schools? How can we think and behave and speak in ways that will make our workplaces even better for us all when we come together again in person (and even when we don’t)? The exploration of this question has been on my mind for over two decades…and this book is a beginning for me to explore it out loud. If you have thoughts and want to contemplate with me, I have a structure for us in which to do it. Send me an email and we will talk!

For your heart: I don’t know who started it but going around Twitter was the post – “5 words, 5 tags.” You share a thought about what this pandemic has got you thinking about – you share that in 5 words and then you ask five others to share their thoughts as well. My contribution was “Deep awareness: dissolution of you/me.” Others included Jane Kise’s “Focus: What you can control.” and Angela Buckingham’s “In hope, I am fearless.” Let’s live into a better future together.

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

I find myself seeking both intellectual friction and solace on line. Here are a few links to blogs and magazines that provide me smiles and food for thought.

The White Pages Garrett Bucks writes blogs with meat in each one of them – chewy, gristly and substantive. As he says on the home page, “They’re about white people and racism – how we do and don’t talk about it, why we haven’t made much progress on it and what breaking that pattern might look like.” I think Bucks puts out beautiful and important work.

The Examined Life Courtney Martin is a featured contributor to On Being and the author of The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream. She also says she is “co-founder of @freshspeakers & @soljourno, momma, electric slider, lover, fighter.” She too writes a blog and she writes vulnerably and touchingly about swimming in these uncharted waters as a mom of a young daughter and a soul on this earth.

I always head into an airport bookstore on my way to my gate just to see what’s new… if you are like me, you might want to try The Next Big Idea Club. “The world’s most brilliant authors, hand-picking the ideas that will change your life.” With Adam Grant, Susan Cain, Daniel Pink and Malcolm Gladwell curating the list, you might want to check it out.

And for something quite different than the above, try Emergence Magazine. Emergence Magazine is a quarterly online publication featuring innovative stories that explore the threads connecting ecology, culture, and spirituality. I feel it’s akin to The Sun sorta – both are “radically intimate and socially conscious writing.”

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

A Superb Presenter

“Jennifer presented a workshop on Having Hard Conversations to our staff. She is a superb presenter, with a strong command of the content, excellent real examples, and professional delivery. Staff have since been talking to me all week about how much they enjoyed the presentation. I only wish we had more time with her, as these practices have the potential to have a really positive impact on our workplace.”

Cameron Paterson, Head of Teaching and Learning
Shore Sydney Church of England Grammar School, North Sydney, Australia