Monday, November 16, 2009

Jewish Wisdom in the Workplace

Shayla McKnight wrote an article about her workplace where, unlike many other workplaces we are all familiar with, gossip is not tolerated.  In fact, when she began working there, she was told explicitly,  "There's no back-stabbing here, and no office politics.  Gossiping and talking behind someone's back are not tolerated."

The interesting thing is that it works!  The employees actually do not gossip, and if someone breaks that rule, s/he is called out on the issue and reminded about the policy.

We often have rules in our classrooms stating that lashon hara and rechilut are not acceptable, but in my experience we rarely go the extra step by following up and holding not only our students but ourselves to the high standards we articulate.  Maybe we need to state the policy as part of our induction process for new teachers as well as new students and their families.  And everyone would certainly benefit if we insisted on taking the policy seriously.

There is another section of the article that helps to explain why there is a real feeling of community in this workplace, and I believe it has possibilities for the classroom as well.
"There's a mix of personalities in any company, and rarely does everyone in a workplace like one another.  but I believe that half the battle is in how people communicate.
 When employees are hired here, they're given a communications assessment, a commercial program that the company uses to pinpoint a person's dominant communications style.  the styles are linked to colors that identify how each employee likes to communicate.
If someone is a "red," for example, he or she appreciates when others are direct and state the facts quickly.  A person who's a "blue" enjoys having all the details, and time to process them.  A "yellow" is spontaneous and likes a personal connection.
I'm a "green"  That means I'm sensitive and like to be approached as courteously as possible;  greens tend to be compassionate and supportive. 
Nameplates on our desks have a color bar to identify our styles, ...  This system lets everyone know how co-workers prefer to be approached and it goes a long way in promoting harmony."
What if we gave our students the same courtesy this company gives its employees?  What if we really treated our students as individuals?  We know about multiple intelligences, and varied learning styles.  We know about multiple assessment tools which give our learners the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in different ways.

What if we also allowed them a voice in defining the way in which they communicate - with each other as well as with us - so they would feel safe and respected in our schools.

I'm willing to bet that the atmosphere in our classrooms would be different - in a very good way.

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