Saturday, November 03, 2007

Notes from CAW Workplace Training Workshop

I'm sitting here in the CAW Port Elgin Family Education Centre on a beautiful Fall evening after a having facilitated a session on "dealing with conflict in the classroom". The workplace training program is a remarkable accomplishment. As he CAW writes:
In 1996 Big Three bargaining our union successfully bargained training time for every member in the workplace during working hours. In 1999, eight more hours were added expanding the workplace training program to 24 hours over the life of the agreement. The courses are designed to give our members an opportunity to learn more about their union, review developments in the industry and deal with workplaces issues ranging from building respect to ergonomics and stress.
Every couple of years there's a Workplaces Trainers Conference - there's over 125 trainers, i believe. This is the second time i've been privileged to offer a workshop at this event. Today's workshop was overflowing with stories of people's experience of conflict in the workplace. So much so that i didn't need to do all the pieces i'd designed. You can download the original design here (a 46K PDF). In reflecting on the workplaces trainers' experience we were able to create a pretty damn good list of helpful advice and techniques for dealing with conflict in the classroom. We began the workshop by listing one expectation of the workshop from each participant. You can see those expectations here (a 20K PDF). And here's what we created in our discussion of advice, techniques, what works (of course, not everything works in every situation all the time - also, some of this might seem a bit mysterious as i comes from discussions we had which would take more time than i have to convey):
  • Keep open mind
  • If someone comes looking for a conflict, don’t give in
  • Don’t let them rattle you – it helps to know that we’ve all had the same experiences
  • Many different ways to earn respect
  • agreeing with someone
    • Admit that you don’t know, commit to go and learn and then move on
  • You can earn respect from the rest of the class when you do challenge a disrupter
  • Always have a script – develop formulas that you can apply
  • Take time to sit down informal and shoot the shit with people who are potentially disruptive
  • Give participants an “out”
  • Throw it back to the class
  • Ask a person to leave
  • If you think you’re going to have a bad class, then you probably will. Be positive.
  • Talk with participants, not AT
  • Let co-facilitator know how you feel – rely on your co-facilitator
  • “You’re entitled to your own opinion”
  • Be authoritative, not authoritarian
  • Stay away from Tangent City
  • You can be strong like an oak or strong like grass
  • Give a potentially disruptive participant something to do (e.g. prepare the handouts, help set up the room, be one of the small group discussion leaders)
  • Involve participants in the process – get them to “own” the process (e.g. by starting session with getting them to suggest guidelines for behaviour that will help them)
  • Have water available at all times
  • When confronted with someone who says, “It’s boring,” you can respond with, “It can’t be boring. It’s a class based on participation including your participation.”
  • When confronted with, “This is another union brainwashing session,” you can respond with, “If I can brainwash you in eight hours either I’m really incredibly powerful or you’re kind of susceptible.”
  • “I” messages
  • “You” messages, i.e. when people say “You guys….” You can respond with, “We’re all “you” guys.”
  • Respect with co-workers
  • Relying on co-facilitator, e.g. “back comments”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It sounds a lot like working with high school students! We don't fundamentally change perhaps?! Three ground rules I use with students are 1. Respect - no put downs, 2. Respect - be prepared to work with everyone, 3. Respect - be physically safe. I always appeal to self-interest. "If you want to turn up here and be looking forward to a good time and a safe environment to work in (physically and emotionally) then that depends on how each one of you chooses to participate. You create the environment." It seems to work. I also try to talk to the trouble makers one-to-one before and/or after a session. Acknowledging their presence and their value to the session and discussing their behaviours that are not appropriate away from their peers also helps. I love the fact that groups the world over, of all ages and kinds have such human similarities!