My Final Reflection

When making the decision to go back to school, the decision was made with much thought.  I was just beginning my second year of teaching, when I discovered that standing in front of a classroom was just not enough.  How could I possibly make a difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities, when the only decisions I could make were the decisions that only affected the individuals within the four walls of my classroom?  How could I possibly make the magnitude of changes that need to be made within the programs that are offered for individuals with disabilities without more education and experience to guide me?  That is where the journey began.  I began intensely investigating graduate programs that would fulfill my need.  At the time, I did not realize how much I would learn about myself on this journey and how much I would grow personally and professionally.  I was in for a great shock.

As I began the Adult Learning Program, I was very surprised that I was the only student on the disabilities track.  At first, I was a bit disappointed, but then quickly realized it was a great opportunity for the track to be tailored to my passion.  I took the introduction classes to the program that focused on adult learning, adult development and research.  The introduction classes really provided me with the opportunity to see how adults learn.  I found this highly fascinating and beneficial since I spent a lot of time in my undergraduate classes studying how children learn.  The core classes provided a base to build on in order to prepare me for what I called the “action classes”. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the action classes; they were very much in and out of my comfort zone.  Program planning, instructional strategies, and groups and teams, were classes that were very intense with a lot of “action”, hence the term “action classes”.  These classes made me reach farther than any other classes to actually apply what I have learned and at times apply it as I was learning.  Coming from an educational background, I always hope for the opportunity to apply something I am learning or have learned.  What better way than to show you have learned it, than to implement?

 Program planning is a perfect example of learning and applying.  I was very challenged by the task of developing a program as I was learning how a program is developed.  This is the first time in graduate school where my learning style did not match the professor’s teaching style. Traditionally, I would have preferred to learn the entire process of program development and then be given the opportunity to develop a program independently.  The class was run differently and I had to adjust and follow the instructors lead.   I found myself wondering, “Is this the way students felt when I leaned toward a specific learning style?”  Due to teaching special education, I was always careful not to teach to one specific learning style and tried to incorporate various styles into a lesson and this experience has really made the importance of teaching to everyone’s style standout.

My experience in the groups and teams class and the instructional strategies class varied immensely.  In both classes, I was required to work in a group and develop a project/paper.  The two groups I was assigned to also varied. Although more was expected from my groups and teams group, I found it to be much more challenging working with the group in the instructional strategies class.  Although I struggled the entire time, yes, I mean the entire time, I learned a lot about group dynamics through this experience and learned how vital it is to be authentic and that each group goes through stages and it is all about how you handle those stages.

The turning point for me within this program was when I began taking my track courses.  This is the first time in my educational experience as an adult where I was asked what I wanted to learn.  When that question was posed to me, I thought long and hard.  What did I want to learn in the field that I had such passion?  It did not take me long to develop a list of items that would fill two 15 week time spans.  As I made my way through my track courses which were run as independent studies, I learned the true meaning of a self-directed learner.

As I completed the required reading, developed my own thoughts, and wrote on the topics presented I learned a lot from study the topics independently.  Every other week, I was given the opportunity to speak with the professor about the topics I was learning about for several hours.  I felt challenged, engaged, and privileged to have opportunity to speak to a renowned professor who genuinely shared the same passion for which I possessed.    I could not believe I was able to debate, question, and defend some of topics that were discussed.  All I can say about this experience is…WOW!

Now, as things are coming to an end, I am continuing to learn through the action learning project.  Although this project has not gone the way I projected, I have learned a lot about management and how management can manage a problem into existence.  Although I learned this concept through the consulting class, I was able to see this first hand.  I was also lucky enough to experience resistance, the importance of being authentic, and the do’s and don’ts of client management.  Good and bad, I have learned from both.

As I look back, I would not have done anything differently.  I feel I selected the right program for me and my aspirations.  My hope for future students on the disability track is that they too will be given the opportunity to select their passion and share it with a professor.

Final Reflection

December 8, 2008

As I read through my blog, it was made apparent to me that my thinking has developed over the semester.  At the beginning of this course, I felt a bit overwhelmed with the idea of “flawless consulting”.  I thought to myself, “Who is flawless?”  Well, I came to discover that Block provided the clear cut steps to encourage consulting that is nearly flawless. 

Although at the beginning of this course, I was a bit unsure of the new skills I was learning in the context of the classroom, I was even more unsure of how I would implement them outside of the classroom.  As we practiced inside the classroom walls, I felt a bit more secure in my new found skills.  I learned very quickly that there is no way to be prepared for every reaction that the client may throw at you and that I needed to take things in stride. 

As I wrote my integration paper, it allowed me to see what I truly have learned through this course.  Not only did I learn valuable consulting skills that I discussed thoroughly within my integration paper, but I learned how valuable a class discussion can be.

Through our class discussions, I have learned through my peers experiences.  As a class when we provided advice, I felt that it was a valuable lesson.  Not only were we given the opportunity to assist our peers we were given the opportunity to learn from their frustration.  In addition to learning consulting skills, the class discussions have allowed me to learn new ways to use technology.  Although technology is not foreign to me, it was very when my peers gave advice on how to make the technology we were using a bit easier.

Although I conducted my consulting project independently, I see the value of having a partner.  I am looking forward to my final consulting experience during the capstone in the spring semester.  I will enjoy practicing my new found skills with the support of a team.

The Power of Ownership

November 22, 2008

I just want to take a moment to comment on Monday’s class. On Monday, everyone filed into the room like they do every other Monday, looking a little weathered due to the semester coming to an end and the thinking about the other holiday obligations that they have committed to.  Everyone seemed a bit down, including myself. 

I felt the dynamics change in the class when we were given the permission to make the classroom ours.  Everyone immediatly began chattering about how we can make a comfortable environment within the classroom walls.  I LOVED IT!  I used this technique a lot when I taught special education.  When the students felt that they had some ownership in the classroom they felt comfortable and they were more willing to take risks. 

As we began the discussion in an environment that we had created, everyone seemed to become more energized.  The discussion in the class seemed so free flowing and everyone participated not because they felt they had to, but because they wanted to.  I felt that tis exercise was very worthwhile and it should be used more frequently.

Dialogue…What’s the point?

November 9, 2008

     As I read Nancy Dixon’s Perspectives on Dialogue, I was shocked to discover several different things.

1. Managers spend 75% of their day in conversation.

I realized that a manager spent a lot of time with other people and that a lot of that time requires interaction with others, I just would not have guessed that 75% of the day is spent in conversation.  When I reflect on my own personal job, I am a manager and I do spend a lot of time involved in conversation.  The conversation that takes place is with many different clients, employees, and, of course, my supervisor. 

2. Dialogue is a special kind of talk.

Up to this point, I naively used the term “dialogue” and “talk” interchangeably.  Dialogue is not simply talking according to Dixon and is not simply “one way”.  This hits close to home to me because many times my conversation end up being “one way” even if I do not mean for them to turn out that way.

3.  Dialogue is a social event and occurs in group settings.

Once again, I never through about it to realize that dialogue should occur in a group setting.  Initially, when I though of dialogue, I thought of two people talking.  Dixon noted that this is what many people think of as well when they think of the word dialogue.

I think that dialogue can be complicated.  When you are in dialogue with one person or a group of people, the people you are in dialogue with are monitoring your tone, your choice of words, what is said, how it is said, and what you failed to say.  On top of all of that, they are also monitoring your body language.  After reading Dixon, I have to say that dialogue is complicated yet essential in any type of organization and relationship.  I feel that relationships and organizations would run much smoother if proper dialogue is established and continues to flow.

Analyzing The Information

November 2, 2008

Looking back at this project…time is flying by.  I guess time flies when you are having fun!  Last week, April and I did our presentation on discovery and data collection.  Due to presenting this topic to the class, I felt that I had an advantage when approaching this part of the consulting project. 

Although I understood all the steps involved in data collection, I felt that analyzing the information that I gathered would be my biggest challenge.  However, I was very careful not to get bogged down by the information that I gathered and not to gather “repeat” information.  Nevertheless, the analyzing process is definitely the most challenging.

The data that I gathered was very interesting and everyone that I spoke with was helpful in their own way.  It was very interesting to see how personal opinions on the topic influenced their professional responses.  As I continue to analyze the data that I have gathered, I have noticed a pattern in the participant’s responses and it is becoming easier to analyze the data that I have collected.

Presentation Prep

October 26, 2008

As April and I began to prepare for our presentation a few weeks ago on discovery and data collection, at first glance looked intimidating.  Why did the topic seem so intimidating?  Well… in my field data collection is a huge part of my responsibility and is a very overwhelming task at times and I was not looking forward to delving into data collection even more so than I am already required to do.

Well, now that we are prepared for the presentation, and we have dived in waist deep, I have learned a lot about data collection and how truly simplistic it can be.  Although, looking at data collection up front it may still seem intimidating.  The combination of discovery and data collection allows the consultant the ability to discover the problem and how to collect data in order to deal with the problem.

Out of all of the reading the preparation that was conducted to facilitate the class with this section, I feel the most valuable section was the section in the data gathering chapter where Block provides key areas to concentrate on in order to get to the root of the problem.  Although we are all aware that the root of the problem may not always surface, Block provides a great starting point.

Hopefully, by the end of the presentation, my peers will be able to apply what they have read and what we have facilitated to real life situations at work and in their personal lives.

Resistance: How to overcome it

October 17, 2008

Resistance is visable EVERYWHERE!  Resistance is found in every type of relationship that requires human interaction.  A marriage, living in a household with a teenager, and working with a boss that is not open to new ideas all lend themselves to resistance. 

Block’s suggestions for handling resistance are great to use not only in consulting, but can easily be modified to dealing with resistance in a professional and personal context.  I particularly liked the way Block stated to state the form of reistance in a “nonpunishing way” and how essential it is to use neutral language.

I feel that the most difficult step in dealing with resisitance that Block discusses is picking up the cues.  It is human nature to “read into” cues that other people give and jump up the ladder of inference.  I feel that nonverbal cues are more decieving than verbal cues. 

As I head into my consulting project, I am sure that I will encounter some amount of resistance.  I think the most difficult part of encountering resistance is not taking it personal. 

Contracting…The Result

October 12, 2008

Well … the site seems  to be back up and running so I am going to try and post. 

I contracted with my client this week and it went better than expected.  There were several times within the contracting meeting that I had to remind my client about my role in the project.  My client was very willing to share the tasks with me and was very willing to give me access to people within the organization that I may not otherwise have access to.

 

Go Forth and Contract

October 1, 2008

Due to some technical difficulties I was unable to post my blog last week… (drum roll please)…. so here it is.

When I left class on Monday I felt confidence in my abilty to contract.  Originally, when I read Block’s  chapters on contracting, I was a bit overwhelmed with all of the guidelines and advice that was given. When Dr. Carter discussed contracting with the class and gave us a sample, the stress on contracting subsided. 

I felt very overwhelmed with the idea that contracting was a huge influencial stage of the consulting project.  Many of the errors that could occur with the project usually occured due to poor contracting or an error in contracting.  To ease my stress of contracting I have made a little “cheat sheet” of what I am suppose to do and NOT do when contracting and have practiced with my spouse.  Now, you are probably thinking, why is she taking so many steps in order to complete the contract?  Well, I know that my client is thinking that I am going to be a “pair of hands” so I will need to clarify my role within the project.

 I will be speaking with my client this week.  I will keep you posted! 

Risky Business

September 28, 2008

Selecting to complete my consulting project within my organization could be a little risky according to several of my peers; however, I like living on the edge.  Why not improve an organization that stands for great things?  Better yet why not improve a program that benefits the clients that are served? 

Regardless of the riskiness involved, completing this project through my own organization will be a great task that I am very eager to tackle.  I am very passionate about the clients in which my organization and I serve and I feel that this project will greatly benefit everyone involved.  What could get better than that?