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The Dialogic Learning Weekly #203

The Dialogic Learning Weekly
The Dialogic Learning Weekly #203
By Tom Barrett • Issue #203 • View online
Welcome. I write to you just after the state of Victoria, here in Australia, is plunged back into a snap five-day lockdown. 😔
I hope you are safe and well.
If you need to connect with me, want to share or vent. Or it would help if you connected with someone. Please just hit reply to this email and drop me a line, I am ready to listen.
This week: Is this meeting necessary? Exploring workplace wellbeing. Talk that changes us. A look at the uncomfortable space of open dialogue. Announcing a new school partnership in Queensland

Is this meeting necessary?
At Adelaide Botanic High School, the leadership team is posing this question. The school is only a few years old and each year the number of students, staff and leadership, grows considerably. The growth of the leadership team has prompted a challenge of the underlying assumptions about meetings.
It was somewhat serendipitous to discover an article from Jennifer Moss that cites the patterns of habitual meetings, in relation to workplace wellbeing. It is interesting to place it in that broader context.
The author gathered feedback about burnout and workplace wellbeing, from more than 1,500 respondents in 46 countries, across a wide range of sectors.
Some insights from the data:
  • 89% of respondents said their work-life was getting worse.
  • 62% of the people who were struggling to manage their workloads had experienced burnout “often” or “extremely often” in the previous three months.
  • 25% felt unable to maintain a strong connection with family, 39% with colleagues, and 50% with friends.
It makes me wonder what this would look like in just the education sector. Would these indicators be different?
Moss explores the varied aspects of burnout and references meeting fatigue. I want to highlight for you, the prompts and strategies listed in the article that you can use to shift your thinking and practice.
One of the most glaring issues related to workload was meeting fatigue — it tops the list of things organizations must tackle. To begin to address it, use this simple formula:
1) Ask, Is this meeting necessary?
2) If yes, then ask:
  • Does it have to be a video call?
  • Does it have to be longer than 30 minutes?
  • Which attendees are absolutely essential?
  • Can we turn off our cameras and use our photos or avatars instead?
  • Can we do an audio-only conference call for a much-needed screen break?
3) Start meetings with a check-in: How are people feeling? Does anyone have a back-to-back call? If you’re leading the meeting, set a timer so you can let anyone who does have one jump off five to 10 minutes early.
I am a particular advocate for number three. I have shared here in previous issues how starting with “What’s on your mind?” is a powerful session opener.
Beyond Burned Out
Talk that changes us
“Having hard conversation” by David Truss resonated deeply with me this week. He outlines a conversation he experienced that ended up, in his words, as a crap-storm. But it was the reflection on safe spaces for talk and dialogue that piqued my interest the most.
A critical point that David Truss makes is that talk, which helps us grow and develop, might not always be easy and comforting.
We need to understand that learning conversations might involve not just disagreement, but hurt. 
His reflection provokes a more profound appreciation for the intricacy of creating safe spaces and what this means.
We need conversations to be safe, and understand that topics won’t always feel safe. This is tricky. This is something some people won’t agree with. But if the conversation can’t go to uncomfortable places, to places that feel uncomfortable, then the learning is hindered. 
I am making a new connection between the capacity for functional discomfort in the talk and the learning capacity.
One of the most frequent personal reflections from working with leaders and teacher teams is, “What is not being spoken about?” The realisation that something else is going on. I pick up there is discomfort below the surface, which has yet to be addressed by the group.
Masking behaviours are perhaps just as troublesome as taking everything personally.
We need to be willing to set aside egos, and not take things personally, when there isn’t intent to hurt. We need to make conversation spaces places where we can misspeak, where we can apologize, where we can disagree, even in places where topics make us feel uncomfortable.
 "If we hold on to the hurt, if we only see hate, words don’t ever get to heal."
"If we hold on to the hurt, if we only see hate, words don’t ever get to heal."
To ground this in your own experience, reflect on the teams you collaborate with, and your recent discussions and meetings.
  • When did you share disagreement or creative tension, during a recent meeting or workshop?
  • What was left unsaid or hidden?
  • Who actively monitored the safety of the dialogue space?
  • Does everyone experience safety in your team in the same way?
  • If you have limited experience of constructive conflict in your team talk, is there something missing?
  • What latent discomfort is left unspoken?
Just some provocations to get you thinking. Thanks to David for the starting point.
Having hard conversations
Delaneys Creek State School
I am excited to announce that a new school partnership is up and running in Queensland. Chad and I, welcome Delaneys Creek State School to the group of partner schools we collaborate with and support.
Our consultancy with schools is always over a longer time frame: partnerships, not just projects.
Chad ventured across the border from Sydney to join Julianne, the Principal, and her teaching teams. He focused on their initial steps to map their curriculum and design some refreshed learning sequences.
Chad Ferris
Celebrating a solid two days of learning design with the staff at Delaneys Creek State School QLD. Enhancing student agency through inquiry. Go team! #organiclearning #nationalcurriculum #hexagonalcurriculummapping #learning #curiosity #creativity #transdisciplinary #empathy
Welcome, Julianne and team! We are excited to be supporting you this year.
Thanks for taking a moment out of your week to explore the newsletter. I invite you to hit the reply button and let me know what resonates.
In dialogue, we trust.
~ Tom Barrett
The illustration on the talk section is People vector created by pikisuperstar
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Tom Barrett

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