In August of 2018, I sat in a professional development hosted by our newly adopted English Language Arts (ELA) series representative. My focus was lacking due to the fact that it was a day before Back to School Night and kids were arriving the following Monday. My colleagues and I sat there while the representative talked at us. There was no appeal, no storyline to draw us in, no connection made. Therefore, we decided to go on our own business, making assignment sheets, name tags, and checking emails. One of my colleagues even went shopping for new shoes.
As I reflect on my own PD presentations, I would be horrified to know my participants would prefer getting their teeth cleaned rather than sit and listen to me. I’ve always been enamored by the presenters of Teachers College Reading and Writing Project because they seem to speak right into my literacy soul. I got curious as to what makes their presentations remarkable and others like the ELA adoption presentation”meh!” Alas, I came upon an article from Harvard Business Review titled, “The Art of Persuasion Hasn’t Changed in 2,000 Years” by Carmine Gallo.
Gallo outlines a formula Aristotle outlined 2,000 years ago on how to be masterful at persuasion. Renowned presenters across history have used this formula and I am not surprised that Lucy Calkins and colleagues have beautifully mastered it as well.
The public speaker’s actions should support their words. Or else, the speaker will lose credibility and ultimately weaken persuasion. There is no need flaunt your degrees or drop names. Simply establish character because it helps build trust between yourself and your listeners.
As a new instructional coach at a new school site, this is my number 1 goal with teachers. To me, walking the talk is everything. If I tell teachers I will be in their room at 10:30 am, I am there by 10:28 am. If I tell teachers I will be there to have lunch with them to discuss a coaching cycle, I’m there. Be present and show up.
I also find that the staff developers at TCRWP are in the trenches with their teachers, supporting and guiding them every step of the way.
Once the trust is established, there is a logical appeal to reason. Gallo asks us to reflect, “How will your idea help?”
To me, I always circle it back to our district-wide vision, the logical reason is that kids come first, every day. When it comes to reading and writing, they deserve world class education and my appeal to teachers is that it is to really see our kids.
3. Pathos- Emotion
People are moved to action when the speaker makes them feel an emotion. Simply put, persuasion cannot happen in the absence of emotion. Gallo explains that the best way to transfer emotion is through storytelling. Narratives releases neurochemicals in the brain, such as oxytocin, known as the moral molecule that connects people on a deeper emotional level. The best stories are personal about you or people close to you.
Just today, I had a fabulous teacher share how she feels like she has short-changed her previous year’s kids when she was starting out in the new work of writing workshop. I think this took an incredible amount of vulnerability to share. I think Pathos and Ethos may go hand in hand here. I have spent a lot of time in this teacher’s room using ELD strategies for our ELD kids. While I am in no rush, I do want to establish my character that I will always put kids first. I believe she is seeing me.
Lucy Calkins is a mastermind at turning words into images. She helps us clearly see and understand their ideas.
My favorite one that Lucy shares is the guy dancing in the meadow alone. Soon, a few join in, and later more come, and before you know it, the entire field is dancing.
She shares that TCRWP was once the lone man dancing in the meadows and now it seems the whole field is joining in. While we can rejoice in more kids having a voice. I also clearly hear her request in not having us forget what brought us to this work in the first place. That is hearing and seeing our kids.
There are limits to how much the brain can input information. Thus, it is important to remember that less is often more.
What if this is the only 5 things we needed to persuade anyone of ideas? What if this rhetoric got in the hands of the wrong people? Something to think about for a fine Monday night.