IDEA #2: Treat YOU like the ones you teach

ALL OF US are educators. We’re role models. And mentors. We teach others, not so much by what we say, but by what we do.

Your ability to model behaviours – how to recognize polarized positioning, and how to engage in these discussions without getting played or co-opted by either side– is a gift to others.

Sure, it’s easier and safer and sometimes quite exhilarating to pick a side in an either/or debate. To be on the winning team, or the right team, or the virtuous team. It’s the reason some people are attracted to political campaigns.

But it means some people, even you, may be manipulated or used.

Each of us has to learn how to participate in what can become emotional, heated, sensitive, awkward and politically incorrect discussions.

So, what do you do?

  • In a #MeToo world, when you still don’t feel quite comfortable calling out your colleague who you notice flirts with others in the office?

  • When one of your college’s big corporate donors talks about climate change being a fantasy?

  • When one of your indigenous friends keeps talking about being a victim of cultural appropriation. And everyone else in your group feels shame or resentment but doesn’t want to get called out as a racist for having a different perspective?

There can be a lot of pressure on you, the educator, the role model, the mentor, in these situations.

You need to be kind to yourself.

IDEA #2: Treat  YOU like the ones you teach. 

(This is the  3rd blog in an 8-part series: 7 Ideas for Life: An Antidote to Polarity)

At times, you may feel certain about what’s right. But you may not feel that everyone is being scrupulous about finding the best means to get where you want to go.

There will be people who want to do things the way they’ve always be done. And there will be others who want to jump into every new change that comes by leaving everyone in a chronic coping mode.

How do you navigate the pull for stability and the need for change? That too, can be a duality.

Figuring out what options might work, for you, requires reflection and critical thinking. What are my continuum of choices?

Here are some ideas.

Rather than banging the table and raising the issue of sexual harassment in a staff meeting, or worse, whispering behind the back of your flirtatious colleague, would it be more effective to start with a one-on-one conversation with him or her? To talk about perceptions and changes in expectations with #MeToo.

Losing a corporate donor can be a big deal for a college. Maybe you talk with your dean or your admin team about having a coffee with your big corporate donor to talk about how they see climate change, and how your students see climate change.

Maybe even invite the possibility of engaging to improve the understanding of all points of view along that continuum from climate change denial to apocalypse now.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that we live in a fairy-tale world where we just need to get along.

This is VERY hard work and people may not change their minds.

But it demonstrates you care enough about the relationship and the key stakeholders here—including your students and people you mentor—to open up the space.

Maybe you talk with your indigenous friend claiming victim status, and everyone in your group of friends, to understand what reconciliation with First Nations looks like, from everyone’s viewpoint.

I have a friend, an artist who is white and has been adopted by a First Nations elder. Janice is her name. She’s an amazing artist.

Last spring, some of her art was getting very shaming. Ravens on top of a pile of Hudson’s Bay blankets with First Nations’ skulls underneath. I felt gut punched when I saw her art.

March 2017 3 006

That was her goal.

It was hard to talk with Janice about this, especially the shaming. It took us months to work through it, and maybe we haven’t fully.

That gut punch feeling was actually the catalyst for creating this beyond polarity blog. Because I was pretty sure I’m not the only one feeling this way.

If I was mentoring someone else on how to deal better with the shame and shaming that can emerge when we stretch polarities wide, and knew they liked to write, I’d encourage them to write.

IDEA #2: Treat YOU like the ones you teach.

Check in next week for IDEA #3: Make friends with people who are like-hearted, not just like-minded.

It’s easy to get stuck in echo chambers. To listen to people who share our point of view. We like talking to people who agree with us. But it risks feeding polarity.

Please share your experiences and ideas in the feedback section of the blog.

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Donna Kennedy-Glans, April 22nd, 2018

See also:

7 Ideas for Life: An Antidote to Polarity

Idea #1: Step up, shoulders squared.

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