“Take it to the mats!” 

 

Cathy McNally, reporting on the 2017 Surrey Teachers Convention

On Friday May 5, I had the privilege of joining a remarkable teacher and three of her students (past and present) to present our combined explorations of the gift of using the communication model in our lives. Wow!  

Teacher Lizanne Foster, a keen supporter and student of The Haven, works ‘real time’ with communication, clearings, honesty, and being direct in her Grade 11 classroom. She introduces the Communication Model to students within the first few weeks of each new semester, integrating it into classroom activities and interactions. Of course this means that she has to practice what she preaches and so she is the first to own when she has snapped or been triggered, when she is stressed and not listening as clearly. It also means that when misunderstanding arises in the classroom, students have a way to express their displeasure not only with each other but with her as well. 

After quite a few years of having the Communication Model as part of her teaching practice, Lizanne was delighted recently when her students coined a new term for asking for a clearing: take it to the mats!  

What does it mean? Lizanne has floor mats that spell out the steps in clear communication. She puts them out and uses them to walk through when she wants to be clear about her own message, and to coach students to be clear about theirs. What students report is that they find this helps them to get clear what has been going on inside…which in turn helps them to calm down and have better understanding of their situation and options. 

Lizanne reports that her classroom is easier to manage when students are in relationship with each other and when they know how to use the Communication Model. Very challenging issues stand out and can be more quickly and kindly dealt with. Students slowly learn many things about communicating, and are surprised to discover that others don’t automatically see things the way they do!

The teachers participating in the workshop were astonished to learn about this shared experience in the classroom, and leaned in with curiosity, … giving it a try for themselves. The interactions that resulted, in small practice groups as well as with the whole group at closing, were quite remarkable. We were a group (ages 16 through 62) with each person asking questions and offering insights—truly collaborating. 

Stepping back to reflect on the whole workshop, I witnessed everyone present engaging, being open, curious and honest; we were living the model.  Best of all, each teacher commented that they were leaving with simple and clear ideas “I could put into practice on Monday!”

In our workshop team, the student who is still in Lizanne’s class joined her teacher in recounting a misunderstanding they “took to the mats” a mere three weeks before! The two former students shared stories of the effect of the Communication Model in their home and working lives. One cleared up a misunderstanding with her supervisor in a new job; the other is slowly repairing a very important relationship with her family member. (she beamed while sharing this!) 

I was SO inspired, particularly by the courage and sharing of the young people involved who were so willing to give real life examples in order to help spread the word about this way of relating. The impact is with me still.  

As I look back on my time in Surrey, I believe I caught a glimpse of three young women who will be making a profound difference in our world… and an equally a remarkable group of committed and caring educators who intend to be the most effective partners in this shared vision for connection and understanding!