“Getting Centered—Managing the dynamics of difference Through collaboration" Chapter seven (Lindsey et al, 2009)
—Heifetz, 1994, p.35
The above quote by Heifetz really resonates with me. As a former political scientist and student of social movements, I am a fan of collective action theories and identity paradigms on how the notion of a “we” gets constructed. Heifetz’s quote explores how to manage the dynamics of difference and in a sense gets us closer to the “we” where we are able to research a common ground of shared beliefs and values.
In terms of conflict that arises from cross-cultural issues, I try to respond positively, with an open mind. Because of my background and educational training, one might assume this comes easier. However, under certain conditions and in some situations, a desired response is not always the case. A recent experience while visiting a major historical site viewed by many cultures with multiple perspectives is a case in point. My husband and I were visiting Windows at Arches National Park while Utah and experienced a group of tourists being extremely loud (disrupting to the peacefulness of the sunrise). Although I will not indicate the culture, my husband’s response was “are they always so loud?” I found myself trying to find excuses for the behavior, but also agreed that it was disrespectful. This would have been the case with any culture at that moment, but none-the-less, it gave me pause. Yes, responding with an open mind can sometimes be challenging. The idea expressed in Lindsey et al, 2009 that “we often resolve the professional conflicts by agreeing that we disagree and then walk away with smiles” often holds true. In an ideal world, I’d like to always view cultural differences as a learning opportunity. Although I love discovering cultural nuances, I sometimes give into frustrations when I have traveled extensively and am transitioning between observing culture and becoming a part of it. In terms of my school site, most of my students are usually open-minded, but I do teach history and I am rather transparent about my passions. If they are not open-minded, my guess is that they try to be because they know this is something that matters to me.
Three Key Learnings:
1. Ways of handling cross-cultural conflicts
2. Managing the dynamics of differences
3. How to incorporate multiple perspectives to build capacity for dialogue involving conflict related to difference and diversity?
1. “Conflict and heterogeneity are resources for social learning.” (Heifetz, 1994, p.35).
2. “When conflict is present, it may be hidden due to the avoidance mechanisms employed in the school.” (p.88).
3. “When a value for diversity exists, managing issues that arise from cultural differences are surfaced, explored, and resolved as part ongoing communication, problem-solving processes, and collaboration” (p.89).
1. How do school leaders create “buy-in” for professional development on managing the dynamics of difference and on collaboration?
2. How do school leaders create a safe environment for faculty, staff, and students to feel safe to participate in open discussions on race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic, and faith?
3. How do educators construct a culture where students are able to take risks in their learning?
Overall, Lindsey et al (2009) emphasize the importance of managing the dynamics of difference and diversity. This involves professional development that incorporates the use of inquiry and discourse, around often competing and multiple perspectives. S how do we facilitate discussions around topics of race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomics, and belief systems, without getting heated or relying on outdated stereotypes?