Difficult conversations

In my 2nd Bastow workshop, the theme was “Leading Teams”. During the two days we learnt that it is important to communicate well with our colleagues. I learnt that whilst certain conversations might be difficult, it is imperative that we have them in order to avoid negativity.

Over the past few months, I have encountered more difficult conversations then in previous years of teaching. The increase has resulted due me becoming the English Learning Leader. The issue for me is that “tough talks” are not easy and this is the way most people would probably feel. I find it especially difficult, because all my life I have been raised to “let it go”, to just walk away from a situation where I’m unhappy and avoid addressing the issue. It was a way of letting the issue just fade away, but it would fester within me. It got to a point that I would always walk away feeling stressed, knowing the situation was unresolved. As a leader, it is something I can’t avoid- I need to tackle it head on.

I teach in a team – each member has a different teaching style and a way of working.Ideally in a team teaching situation each member’s abilities should add to the team’s capabilities and strengths but I find that this is often not the case. If one member struggles with time and student management, this can often impact the other members and their work. They can be forced to carry the team, doubling their own workload and can find themselves doing most of the work. I have often found myself in this situation many times and as I can’t communicate my frustrations very well, this often has an impact on the team relationship. I try to hide my feelings and hope the situation goes away so that it doesn’t have a negative effect on the students . It doesn’t. Students are very quick in picking up tension between teachers and it can affect the harmony in the classroom.

At the workshop, I had to identify a person at work that I needed to have a difficult conversation. In our groups we did role-playing so that we could think about what we would say to the person we needed to have a tough conversation with. For me it was difficult because this has been an ongoing issue, one that I have tried to broach several times over the last 2 years with no change. However I knew I had to keep trying, not so much because it was affecting the way I worked, but because it was having a negative impact on my students.


During the role-play I realised a few things:

  • I was unable to identify reasons why my team member was not contributing to our planning sessions
  • I was constantly projecting my own assumptions on the situation without taking the time to find out the real reasons
  • I wasn’t approaching the situation with a clear mind- so I wouldn’t be open to what was happening
  • I wasn’t really prepared to listen actively

As a result, I am trying to make sure that the next time I begin this conversation, I am in the right frame of mind. It’s not fair to the other person that I’m coming into the meeting with pre-conceived ideas and judgments. In order to understand their point-of-view, I need to ensure the meeting takes place when I’m in the right head-space, so that it is a proper conversation.

I have a lot to learn about difficult conversations, but I know that I need to be prepared to actively listen to their point-of-view and to understand that they might be at a point when there are many things happening in the background that I am not aware of. By going in with an open mind, we might be able to work together to come up with a solution that can be implemented in order to ensure the smooth running of our classroom.

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