Whew! I have finished my part in this week's marathon of staff training. I spent seven hours yesterday talking to staff about rights, respect and responsibility. Specifically, how to teach these rather abstract concepts to adults with a developmental disability and how to recognize when we, as an agency, may be restricting someone's rights. Pretty intense stuff. Today, we talked for 4 hours about person-centred thinking and the best way to get to know someone so that we can help them create a vision for their own future. Again, not easy.
As per usual, in an effort to teach people things, I end up learning just as much.
Over the past two days, I learned how very important it is to listen. Not talk, just listen.
We work hard and our job can be physically and emotionally draining. People are full of ideas and frustrations but, in the business of our days, there are not many opportunities to talk about them. So, after a few minutes of me talking, I tried another tactic. I asked: how's it going? What's working? What's not working? How can we make things better?
I sat at the front and took pages of notes as people vented, sympathized and tossed out ideas. It completed messed up my presentation and we didn't get through half of my slides but, at the end, most people came up to me to tell me how great the morning was.
I hardly did anything.
Maybe that's the point.
One of the most interesting moments of the day, in my mind at least, was when we were talking about the importance of really getting to know someone so that we can help them do the things that are most meaningful for them. Staff were talking about how hard it is to really get to know someone using our services. Some staff work with people in their homes. Others work with them in the community. Others teach classes that people attend once per week. How can we possibly figure out what makes someone tick when we only see parts of them?
I thought for a second and then answered: everyone in the room knows me. Some know my personal life, some have helped me on photoshoots, some run with me, some work directly with me, some have met my partner, some talk to me about Dexter and others borrow my books. Nobody in that room really knows me. But put everyone together and they would be able to draw a pretty accurate picture of who I am.
We can learn a lot about people if we just listen.
I learned a lot today.
Hopefully the people I was supposed to be teaching did too.