Work In Progress

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At 1AM last night I was startled by the sound of drilling and the beep beep beeping of construction machines. I shouldn’t have been surprised – for the last year, intensive construction has been in progress around my apartment complex. Every morning at 7AM, and some days earlier, I am woken up by these sounds. The construction workers stand on a 7-foot story scaffold, which is just at my eye level. I can see them, they can see me. It’s predictable and yet each time I hear or see the construction I become a combination of startled, annoyed, disgusted, and exhausted.

Yesterday as I made my ritualistic Sunday night phone calls, I started to look closely at the construction. The heaping pile of mess that each day gets turned into something a little more recognizable but the mess still remains. It was hard not to notice, even amid the mess, the startling growth and progress in a short time. Concrete, metal of all shapes and sizes, wood, cascading bricks. I found an awe in the rawness. I started to look more closely at both the imperfections and the perfections of the growing construction site across from me and there was a beauty in the messiness and rawness of it. It reminded me that we are all works in progress, and my continued annoyance and inability to adapt to the nuisance of ongoing construction was in part my resistance to acknowledging myself as exactly that. A perfectly imperfect, beautiful and sometimes exhausted work in progress.

The Inner Game of Tennis

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Recently, I authorized myself to do what makes me most happy and I made a list of what I wanted to go after. At the top of the list was re-entering the world of athletic sports. Rediscovering the sport of my childhood and adolescence, tennis, without the competition and performance pressure opened up a new realm of consciousness for me.

Everything I’ve discovered in relearning the game of tennis over the last few years has been a metaphor for the way I take up leadership, group psychodynamics and my intrapsychic world. Of course I had a copy of a book my mom gave me “The Inner Game of Tennis” but I had no idea that playing tennis would be so closely linked to these deeper topics.

Last year was all about the power of my stroke, and the preparation to hit the ball. I had developed a habit of swinging my racquet back behind me twice in preparation for hitting the ball which led to all sorts of problems. Preparedness and power dynamics summed up my biggest leadership challenges of 2013.  Continue reading

The Second Level: Underneath the Surface in a 1st Grade New York City Classroom

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Prior to my group relations experience and training, my way of giving feedback to teachers usually went as follows:

Me: So, how do you think your lesson went?
Teacher: (Nervously recounts what went well and what didn’t…)
Me: Okay, so here’s how it really went (Insert diatribe about the good, the bad, the ugly). Next time, do the following (8 pages of notes) and oh here are some resources that can help you (8 more pages of notes). Anything else I can do?

Teacher: *Blank stare*

Needless to say, sometimes hostility and tears followed these exchanges. I wasn’t always able to guide the teachers to see my perspective and show them I understood theirs. I just wanted better instruction, and I gave elaborate – and very good feedback – about the small and large changes that needed to happen. I considered coaching as a type of measured response – input, output, input, output. Except it didn’t really work that way in reality. So, many times I worked alongside teachers, and gave in the moment feedback or modeled technique for them. This worked but I knew it could have worked better. I was successful but only moderately successful, I didn’t reach every teacher the way I wanted to (and as a result every student).

Recently, I coached a new, first year teacher after she gave a lesson. The exchange we had made me see how the group relations experience and training had really helped me on a number of levels, from the subtle to the extreme. After I observed her lesson, we sat down and I asked her what went well during her lesson. It was our first meeting of this kind and she presented a very defensive disposition. She said she felt her directions were very clear, I agreed and complimented her on her meticulous planning and effective materials. But she said she didn’t know what went wrong, something didn’t go quite right but what? How could she improve? Continue reading