#FindCommonGround

Sep 8, 2019

Disagreeing appropriately – it’s an important social skill, but at times, one that seems on the verge of extinction. Adults and kids alike struggle to master the concept. Fortunately, I had a great discussion with strangers earlier this week and was given a glimmer of hope.

After a long flight I sat down in a crammed airport restaurant. With one man on my left, another on my right, and a TV three feet in front of us, we were forced to watch a never-ending cycle of news. “Really?” said the man on my right. “How can people still defend that man?” The man on my left visibly twitched and said, “He’s our president. And the economy is great.” A period of awkward silence followed.

We all know I couldn’t leave things there.

“Yep,” I said, treading lightly. “It’s hard. Everyone trying to do what they believe is right. There is no easy answer.” Though both men were visibly frustrated, the door opened for discussion. I listened to both men sling accusations across the political divide before bravely jumping in. “Personally, I don’t know one Republican that wants to put children in cages and separate them from their families, nor do I know one Democrat that wants open borders. I’m guessing both are out there, but I believe they are the exceptions rather than the rule.”

We had a great talk. Though it was apparent we had very different beliefs, we talked, listened – and dare I say, had shifts in perspectives, having found small pieces of common ground on which to focus. By the time we left, all three of us were laughing. “Have you thought about running for office?” one of the men asked me.

If we expect our kids to learn the skill of disagreeing appropriately, we have to be able to model and teach it. Unfortunately, technology has replaced face-to-face discussions. In the virtual world all opinions get painted as extreme. I believe isolated posts, tweets and news feeds most often divide us. I find face-to-face discussions have the potential to unite.

So rather than avoiding uncomfortable discussions, have them and work through the disagreements, focusing on understanding over judgement. And when you see a post or hear someone offer information, ask yourself this question, “Is that comment serving to divide and alienate, or helping us find common ground?” Personally, I believe the latter is the only way we will move forward.

#FindCommonGround

Beyond Poor Choices

I know I’m stating the obvious, but changing behavior can be difficult.  Want to start off on the right foot when faced with this challenge?  A critical first step in dealing with inappropriate behaviors is determining which are the result of poor...

Generalizing to Extremes

As I lay awake last night staring at the ceiling, it was clear to me that my original idea for this week’s post would have to wait.  Given the incident that occurred at yesterday’s presidential rally, I believe there is a bigger issue to address. I’ve been...

The Concerning Colorful Spectrum of Language

Though actions may speak louder than words, we best not underestimate how language modeling shapes the behavior of the children we are collectively raising.  I guess it’s a hazard of my profession, but I regularly see and hear the world through the eyes and ears of...

Teacher Dads

Dads, today I celebrate you as teachers.  In fact, I believe it is one of your most important roles.  Fathers are always teaching, continually by example, and most of the time without even knowing they are doing so.  In this regard, I have seen some masterful work.  I...

Predictable Routines Needed

“The only person who likes change is a wet baby.” This quote from Mark Twain seems appropriate given the changes occurring in homes as another school year ends. Parents, we’re lucky. Our kids have had nine months of consistency thanks to the hard work of teachers. We...

One Chapter at a Time

Relieved. Happy. Discouraged.  Exhausted. These were some of the adjectives teachers mentioned when asked how they were feeling about the school year ending.  Although the responses varied, all teachers agreed - they were ready to have some closure with their...

Surrogate Teacher Moms

“Do you have any kids?” I once asked a teacher friend. “Absolutely,” she said. “I have a classroom full of them.” I laughed and walked away, but that thought stuck with me. Let’s face it - some of the best mothers in our lives weren’t our mothers, in the biological...

Get Physical

I’ve done a great deal of yard work over the past few weeks and have been reminded of an important behavior strategy. It’s one I don’t talk about nearly enough, given its effectiveness. Of course, with most people’s busy schedule it’s also hard to come by. The...

Look for the Foundation

Did you know that behaviors have a build-up effect over time?  Most teachers do.  And although there is an ebb and flow pattern to the behaviors of students, we see them all at the tail end of the school year – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Fortunately, we have...

Coming Together

So I’ve been thinking about this post all week.  Though the original inspiration hit me in the middle of the eclipse last Monday, it was driven home again yesterday.  (Being a spiritual man, I believe sometimes God circles back around and gives me reminders – to make...