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Chatting About 'Hard Conversations'

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Live From NSDC, St. Louis-- - Determined not to let lack of sleep, cold freezing rain, or flight delays keep me from St Louis or from attending the 41st NSDC Annual Conference, I dashed from the taxi, checked into the hotel and rushed to my room just in time to facilitate a couple of webinar sessions for a PLP cohort I am helping to lead. Anxiously, I finished up and was out the door to meet up with co-live bloggers Nancy Flanagan and Anthony Rebora.

Dodging the cold wind while waiting for the shuttle, I ran into two educators from Allegany County in Maryland. Their passion was hard to miss as they were excitedly buzzing about all they had been learning for the last few days.

"You must be attending the NSDC conference-- learning anything worthwhile?" I asked. Their response was overwhelmingly positive, with one of the ladies touting the sessions she had attended as some of the best PD she had ever experienced. As I dug deeper, I discovered they were most stoked about a preconference session they attended given by Jennifer Abrams entitled, "Having Hard Conversations."

One of the activities they had to do during the session was to map out their "hard conversation" and one of my new found friends felt that it was a great way to structure what she wanted to say in advance. "I like the idea of deciding what I want to get out of the conversation in advance and the mapping helped me to do that. So often when the conversation goes south I freeze, not even remembering why we were having this hard discussion it in the first place. The mapping gave me an advance organizer that will keep me on track."

"Learning how to address tough issues in a professional way without emotion was a skill I needed to master and this session gave me the confidence I needed to not only start the messy conversations in my role as an instructional coach, but also the skill set to see them through."

Abrams has written a book on the subject and both educators strongly recommended I purchase it. As the bus pulled up to the curb I found myself quite optimistic about the quality of presentations I was going to experience while here. NSDC here I come!

by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

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Glad to hear a good review for Jen's session and her book. Add my recommendation as well - great book and an engaging presenter. Lots of PD books talk about the importance of school and district cultures and the necessity of having deep and honest conversations. Jen breaks it down to help people figure out if/when to have those conversations, and how to build up a plan and a comfort level that helps ensure those hard conversations happen.

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