Eight Steps to Cease Dreading Faculty Conferences with Lecturers
A customer emailed me in a panic. She asked if I could offer her any words of wisdom or a “mantra” to cross her mind – something that would help keep her from getting on the defensive. She was dreading a school meeting with teachers about her 8th grade and expected them to tell her different things that her son is not well. Why else would they invite her to a meeting?
We emailed back and forth on how she could approach the meeting to get the best results. She tends to get triggered and defensive, and she just wasn’t ready to hear “a lot of negative things” about him.
We talked about how she could “shape” the meeting with the teachers instead of dreading it, a strategy to clarify the communication. We always shape our relationships in life. This technique enables us to do this consciously. Marriage vows are an example of the “shaping” of a marriage relationship. “Class rules” in the school environment is another well-known example.
So we talked about how we can “organize” the meeting with the school, and we came up with the following:
8 steps to design a meeting with teachers
1. Acknowledgments: Start with thanks and a little team building. Approve the teachers for how much they have done to support your child; thank you for being on your team; Show your gratitude for having a school that really works with you; point out that everyone wants what is best for their child. Teachers don’t get enough recognition – this is your socializing opportunity.
2. Transparency: Tell them that they can trust that you will be as open as possible in this conversation and that you will work with them and with your child to get the best results. Let them know that you are finding these meetings difficult because you are a little out of your element. So ask them if they are ready to help you stay open by starting with something simple.
3. Play to strengths: Ask if they are starting with the positive – what is going well or at least better. It’s okay to say you know there will be challenging feedback. But explain that it really helps to point out what is going well first. This is especially true because the best solutions lie in success!
4th self talk: Then remember, “We are all on the same team, working together to help my child.”
5. Keep breathing: When they indicate a problem, just take a deep breath in and out before reacting.
6. Use the improv trick, “Yes, and ..”: Acknowledge them, then steer the conversation in a constructive direction. “Yeah, I bet he’s tired sometimes – the poor kid has such a hard time falling asleep. Or maybe, “Yeah – he’s not testing well at all – with his memory challenges, even knowing the material, it’s like pulling a hole in a test. Is there another way to rate it so you can? estimate that he knows the material? “
7. Aim: When taking notes, make a separate list of the specific behaviors that they identify as problems. Close the list again towards the end of the meeting and ask if there is anything else they are concerned about. Then ask them which ONE do you think is most important to get started with? Explain that asking your child to work on too many things at the same time can be overwhelming. Trying to change too many things at once is a recipe for failure, but focusing on one thing at a time is a recipe for success.
8. Remember: you are on the same team!
Isn’t it time to fear school meetings with teachers? The next time you’re “called up” to school, take a few minutes to chart your approach so you can stay out of defense mode and open up to opportunity!