At back-to-school reunion, superintendents envision the year ahead and learn the science of tough conversations – Connecticut Education Association



The State Department of Education (SDE) typically hosts an annual back-to-school meeting for superintendents in August, and after a hiatus last year due to the pandemic, superintendents, SDE staff and d Other education stakeholders were again in person today for a masked rally held at the Magnet School System at Goodwin University in East Hartford.

While the one-and-a-half-year pandemic learning challenges continue into the 2020-21 school year, there was optimism in the air and several speakers pointed to a silver lining of the pandemic: increased collaboration between stakeholder groups.

In a pre-recorded greeting, Governor Lamont, who is on vacation in Maine this week, thanked the educators for their work during a difficult year. “We know more than ever how important it is to be in the classroom and to do it safely,” he said.

His remarks were followed by video greetings from the commissioners of the Early Years Bureau and the Ministries of Public Health and Children and Families.

Acting SDE Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker said the pandemic has highlighted the need for intentional collaboration by state agencies.

She compared the perseverance, dedication, patience and resilience of Connecticut educators during the pandemic to those of the Olympians who have recently excelled on the national stage. “The effort required of all of you in the education community this year is as inspiring as the work of our Olympians,” said Russell-Tucker.

CEA Vice-President Joslyn DeLancey and Acting SDE Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker greet each other at the SDE annual back-to-school meeting.

She acknowledged the many uncertainties and concerns that still surround the next school year and stressed that the health and safety of school communities remains at the forefront. “We’re here for you,” she told the superintendents.

Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), said partnerships and regular conversations between superintendents as well as with the SDE and between education stakeholder groups have been a point positive during the incredible hardships of the past year. and half.

Citing frequent meetings with SDE and between CAPSS, CEA, AFT-Connecticut, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and the Connecticut Association of Schools, Rabinowitz said, “I hope we continue to have these conversations. wonderful in progress. She added, “I hear views that I haven’t heard before, and I’m grateful for them. “

Tackle sensitive conversations

Harvard Kennedy School professor Dr Julia Minson (pictured at top of page) gave the keynote address at the conversation science event, a hot topic for superintendents as they respond to parents’ questions and concerns before the 2020-21 school year.

Minson explained that conversations are ubiquitous but also incredibly complex. “Conversation is complex in part because people have a lot of goals for their conversations that they often don’t think about,” she said. In addition to the goals of information sharing and collaboration, people also have individual and sometimes selfish goals for conversations that don’t align with the goals of the other person.

Frequently in conversations, Minson said the parties come away feeling like they want the other person to understand them better. How to show someone we are really listening and get them to listen to us can be a challenge.

Additionally, when it comes to discussing difficult topics, Minson said people tend to overstate the degree of disagreement between themselves and others who think differently on a given topic. For example, research shows Democrats think Republicans have more extreme views on many issues than Republicans actually do, and Republicans think the same for Democrats.

We know when someone we’re talking to makes us feel heard and when they don’t, but what makes the difference in their response? Minson and his students looked at the topic, studying people’s reactions to other people’s responses and coming up with an algorithm showing the factors that make the biggest difference in whether a person thinks their interviewer is engaged in their point of view. view.

The acronym for these factors, a recipe for receptivity, is HEAR, which stands for Hedge your claims, Emphasize agreement, Acknowledge other perspective, and Reframe the positive.

Covering your complaints means being humble and letting the other person know that you don’t have all the answers. Even people with strongly opposing views have points of agreement. By focusing on this shared common ground, the other person will know that you recognize that they have something valuable to say. Acknowledging another person’s point of view may mean saying “I understand what you are saying. . . “or” I think you mentioned. . . “and deliberately showing that you heard what your counterpart said. Reframing the positive is a reminder to be careful to use positive language and to focus on the benefits in a given situation.

“When you just tell people to be open-minded, they don’t know how to show it – they come back to politeness and formality,” Minson said, “but when you call me ma’am, I don’t care. meaning not really heard. “

The behaviors associated with the acronym HEAR will make your partner feel heard, and since the language has incredibly strong standards of reciprocity, Minson said you can start a positive conversation spiral where you can lead by example.

“When you express your receptivity, it’s more persuasive than arguing directly,” Minson said.

Practicing sentences that match the acronym HEAR is a tangible way to let people know you hear them, and Minson adds, “Having the right words for these situations on the tip of your tongue avoids unforced errors. “

Learn more about Minson’s work at and

You can watch the full State Department of Education back-to-school reunion here.



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