Baltimore Conference (Part 2)

This post is about the workshop that I actually led along with Dr. Laquana Cooke, Olivia Campbell, Lilah Saber, and Dr. Hannah Ashley, 4 intelligent and talented women whom I highly respect.

The main topic of this workshop is about a concept Dr. Cooke developed called Metatuning. This is the process in which a youth worker or educator is “stuck” in a difficult situation with a student, and goes through a mental trial and error process in order to attain different, more effective results from their student.

The interesting part about this concept is that you just don’t think through this process, you DO it.  Through this mental rearranging process you also make new discoveries about yourself, how you work with students, and how you can apply what you’ve learned to future situations with students. As I was going over the slides for this workshop (which I’ll share with you guys later) I thought about how I could do this when working with my students and how educators can utilize this as well.

Throughout my years in education I’ve always had about 1 or 2 students who were to be honest, just really difficult to work with. Never wanted to listen, very disrespectful, all that good stuff. I remember having moments where I just wanted to give up. Not because I didn’t think they were capable of achieving, but because I did not think I had the ability to do substantial work with them. It was a mixture of my lack of confidence, combined with apathy that had been built up through months of becoming jaded. This concept in a way, gave me a sense of hope and new found resilience. I tell people this all the time, my work is a craft. I will never stop trying to improve until I become the absolute best at what I do or until God decides that my journey on Earth is over. In order to become the best at what we do in education, we must ALWAYS metatune. This gives us the chance to self-critique ourselves in order to become better at our work. We must all be honest with ourselves in realizing that some of our methods just don’t work, or are downright problematic.

So part of our workshop is that we did an activity where we actually metatuned a situation played out by participants. One educator, who is a school climate counselor, offered a situation in which she was meeting with one of her students who constantly was in trouble for fighting. I offered to play the role of the counselor, while she played the role of her student. Initially I went into this thinking “I’ve got this, I’ve been in this situation millions of times!”. I was wrong, very wrong.

The conversation went like this:

Khalil: Hi Arianna how are you doing today?

Arianna: I’m fine, those stupid girls pissed me off again.

Khalil: What happened?

Arianna: They were writing all these lies about me on instagram and twitter so I jumped them when I saw them at school the next day.

Khalil: Okay, so this is the third time you’ve fought these girls correct?

Arianna: Yeah, I guess.

Khalil: Okay, so what consequences do you think will happen to you if you constantly keep fighting them?

In the middle of our conversation someone yelled “FREEZE”. (In the game people can say that in order to stop time and rework the situation, a.k.a “Metatune”)

One of my colleagues suggested that I first ask how she feels about how the girls were treating her before even going into discussion about what happened. Although it may seem minor, that makes a HUGE difference. One of my main critiques about the education system is that students are always judged by their behaviors and not for their character. Examples of this are students being labeled as “the bad kid” or teachers having low expectations of their students based on their behavior(Self-fulfilling prophecy) which in turn puts them at a disadvantage academically and socially. By automatically asking her about what she thinks the consequences will be, I failed to even get to the root of her problem with these girls by simply asking about her emotions and thoughts regarding the situation. That’s what sets one apart from other educators, really getting to know these students past their decisions they make. You cannot invoke change in a student if you don’t even know them. How can you even know a student if the first thing you’re talking to them about is a punishment? They’ll shut down immediately because they know that all you see them as is an action, and not as a person, which is all they really want from us in the first place.

My logic was that “If I talk to her about the consequences now, she’ll see that I’m taking an interest in her future”. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s workshops and activities like these, that keep me sharp, challenging me to think twice about my methods and re-think how I can be better. For everybody who is reading this, I want to challenge you to constantly metatune, whether you’re an educator, writer, doctor, everyone needs to grow. No matter your age or experience none of us are perfect at what we do, and until that becomes a reality we must constantly critique ourselves and keep working. The people who are most dedicated at what they do take feedback, apply it, and most importantly, NEVER take it personally. Keep improving.


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