Today’s been a funny day. I like to think I’ll try to glean something good from every day and today I got a double-dose! I was walking to my classroom this morning and as I did, a year eight student came up alongside me to talk Shakespeare. As you do. As an aside, this particular class have me wrapped around their collective teenage finger.They are (mostly, most of the time) motivated learners and are wonderfully lovely. So, we’re talking Shakespeare (Much Ado, if you’re interested) and the student turns her body to the side as we’re walking and starts skipping sideways. This makes me smile, inside and out. She’s trying to persuade me not to move on to ‘Macbeth’ and adds bouncy charm to her plea. Something happened at this point. I decided to do the same. It could’ve gone wrong, I know, but I just went with it. I turned around, faced her and then proceeded in her preferred style of travel. I’m desperately glad it wasn’t a silly-shoe day. I wonder if shoes could represent those things in life that take our attention and stop us being available in the moment? So just as wearing high heels and skipping aren’t really compatible for me surely it’s the same for engaging with someone but not being fully ‘with’ them?

It got me thinking about ‘accompanying’. I remembered a booked called just that about youth work and what it is to walk alongside people. It’s fab. I’m learning a few things around this story today.

  1. Being fully ‘present’ in a conversation is priceless.
  2. Footwear should not hinder (Some days rules like this are there for breaking).
  3. Skipping is a fun way to travel.

I thought that event was the best part of my day today, but there’s more.

Every Thursday, we have training after school. I’d be lying if I said I dash to it every week with energy and enthusiasm. This week, we were asked to write our names on a piece of paper and put it in a box. I did so dutifully and took my seat. During the session, John Murphy asked someone to pick a name out of the box. I thought it was an interactive questioning technique, so when my name was picked out, my heart jumped with fright and was then filled with dread. I was asked to stand up. My heart’s now beating faster and I’m really hoping he’s not going to ask me to answer anything because I was sure I’d say the wrong thing or something totally inappropriate. He gave me a tenner. Weird. I felt puzzled and wondered what the trick was. Ten English pounds, for being on time to the meeting, he explained. Phew! I sat down, sheepishly relieved and feeling a little smug, the truth be told. His point was about positive reinforcement to communicate a message and thinking of strategies to engage students in positive behaviour. Nice one.

These two little stories from today reflect my journey with Double Me too. The first one reminding me that I want to ‘accompany’ our partners in Uganda and join in with what they’re doing. I want to walk alongside them and enable others to do the same, asking questions that are useful for the journey – in this case about teaching and learning. The second story speaks to me powerfully about how we choose our approach. I feared I didn’t have the answer to his question, but he wasn’t asking any questions, just giving me a well done. Our approach is integral to who we are and who we’re becoming. It speaks volumes about us and sometimes before us in the form of our reputation. Even louder than that, it determines the message the people we engage with receive.

Think of all those interactions we have with people each day. It could be a range of things concerning our approach. Manner, attention, positives, affirmation, asking questions, tone of voice, criticism?  What is it for you? I’m learning about being ‘present’ at the moment. Do people get half our attention? There’s nothing worse when someone lends you half an ear. Are we there for people or busying ourselves with the next text, item on our agenda, person to speak to? Guilty as charged for all three above but I’m going to make a more effort to be there in the here and now for whoever’s in front of me.

I wonder if you’ll join me in changing something about your approach that you feel challenged on? What is it for you? Give it a go and let’s talk! 🙂

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