Are you an over-thinker like me? Do you stay awake rehashing conversations or other experiences that didn’t go as planned? Do you have a hard time letting go of “mistakes” made?
One of the things I’ve done in my sabbatical is take classes — art classes, specifically. There are so many benefits to taking classes.
Benefit 1: Being a student again reminds me of the student experience and bring it closer into focus as I return to the classroom.
Benefit 2: Sitting under various teachers exposes me to so many more teaching strategies, approaches, and postures.
Benefit 3 (which may be #1 in reality): learning new things!!!
I took a class on color mixing from Julie Jeanseau, who taught a lot of great lessons but one that has been sticking with me is that sometimes a painting has taught us all it can teach us and instead of trying to “fix” it or make it perfect, we need to take what we’ve learned and apply it to the next painting. Move forward.
Not only did this give me permission to move on from a piece, but also to think about applying this concept to other areas of my life — coaching, teaching, interpreting, and peopling 🙂
It has given me permission to not feel guilty and spiral in overthinking after any “mistake” but to consider, “what am I taking from this to apply to future similar experiences?” and move forward.
In recent weeks, I’ve taken the following lessons forward:
– Keep working in known areas until you are comfortable navigating to novel areas
– Ask more questions, there are other outlets for your musings
– Can I make this even more simple??
Questions to Deepen Our Practice
– What am I taking away from this experience?
– What is important about doing this differently in the future?
Feedback feels like a dirty word in the land of performance evaluation in the interpreting field. It makes students and even seasoned practitioners shudder to imagine being evaluated and provided “feedback” on their work. In my 20 plus years of work in this arena, I think we fundamentally misunderstand what feedback means and how to incorproate it in our work.
We have not learned how to provide or receive feedback from colleagues, nor have we created an effective way to solicit actionable feedback from consumers impacted by our work.
I was recently in a discussion about supervision for professional interpreters when the term of “feedback” came up. We explored what it means to us and our relationship to the term. I then went to the internet to find the dictionary definition: “information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.” (https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/ retrieved 3/17/2021)
Feedback is not about telling anyone what to do and/or how you would have done it differently. But rather it is about sahring your reaction to whatever they are presenting you. As the dictionary says – a product or performance. So, saying, “I would have signed xyz” or “You could have said lmnop” is not feedback. Feedback might look a little bit more like, “I was confused about the connection between xyz and lmnop” or “I could really feel the tone of anger from Sally.”
Then as the practitioner, I can collect that data – the reactions – and make meaning of it to improve my work product. So, I may learn that a consumer was confused about the connection between xyz and lmnop – and realize that I, as the interpreter also missed the connection. Meaning I could have asked for calrification, or I could have looked to my team for insights, or….any number of other control options.
Maybe the connection was clear in the source language but my process management was at capacity and I missed making the connection overt in the target language. This could lead me to brainstorming how to better manage my process, or relying on my team to monitor pieces, or following up with the consumers to clarify, asking the speaker to pause, etc.
When we solicit and collect feedback based on the reactions of consumers, we end up in a much more fruitful direction than when we get feedback that tells us what to do and how to do it. Sometimes the root cause of an issue isn’t apparent to observers, it requires me, as the professional practitioner, to reflect upon my process and identify where I need to strengthen things.
There are many different ways that we collect feedback – the example above is a direct sharing of that feedback. However, we also get feedback from facial expresssions, responses within the interpreted conversation, and even our own sense of “reading the room/people.”
Questions to deepen your practice:
What sources of feedback do you attend to on a regular basis?
What is the message you are getting from those channels?
What are you making it mean?
How are you implementing improvements and testing them?
One of the joys of sabbatical is having time to read again – reading both for professional development and for rest. I have 3 main books on my list for this sabbatical time and a couple of others that may end up on the list as well.
It is interesting how things cross our paths… how we are exposed to and/or introduced to new authors, concepts, and/or ideas. I love synchronicity and serendipity, and I frankly think they played a huge role in the development of this list. My relationship with books is one of finding clues that lead to new authors, and then doing it all over again…continuing to find clues upon the path, picking them up and reading it to the next clue.
My coach trainer recommended the book “Transitions: Making Sense Of Life’s Changes ” by William Bridges. I have downloaded the audio book and begun reading it. It is speaking to my transition period as I change roles & job responsibilities at work. And transition into and out of sabbatical season. I found in my last sabbatical that the most crucial pieces of the experience were the transitions into and out of that season. There is a lot of detoxing to take place as things start to reset. And then there is ramp-up needed.
As I have been listening to various podcasts and following various youtubers regarding decluttering – physical objects – I encountered the author Dana K. White who wrote a book entitled, “How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Dealing with Your House’s Dirty Little Secrets.” Though the book focuses on house management, it has really struck a cord with me and the need I have for developing routines & habits. Another book on my list is Atomic Habits by James Avery. As I engage in my sabbatical fully, I recognize that my life lacks structure without work parameters. And I would like to have parameteres that are just a part o fmy life with or without work obligations.
The other thing that has struck me from this book is the idea of a “project brain” and how that contrasts with habits and routines. I will be exploring this idea in another blog post (or perhaps a series), but I think there are definitely areas of growth for me here. I look forward to bringing these topics into my upcoming coaching sessions (and my artwork, too!).
There are a few other books that I’m interested in reading, perhaps. Including – “The Lazy Genius Way” and “Onward: resilience in educators.” I have the workbook for “Onward” but am interested in reading the book itself.
What books are on your list? Are you interested in reading together?? Are you in a transition??
In coach training, we talk a lot about “trusting the client” in several what if scenarios. Like, what if the conversation starts going in a direction that wasn’t part of the agenda-setting – “trust the client” and make it overt that we are “off track.” What if they say they want to work on X but I can see Y is really brimming for them – “trust the client,” share observations and let them choose. Follow their lead.
As in all things, I then start to wonder about the applicability of this for other things – usually interpreting first, then students, then faculty/colleagues. What does it look like to trust the other party? Now, in the coaching realm trusting the autonomy & agency of the client is specific to the coaching relationship in which we are both there for THEM -they are the point, the agenda, the endgame. But the concept of trusting the other, even in different circumstances is intriguing to me. How about for you?
This morning in my journaling I was writing about the fallacy of, “if I want it done right, I’ll have to do it myself” and that that is not indicative of trusting the other. Trusting their autonomy & agency, trusting their genius, trusting that they bring gifts to the scenario, trusting that they have abilities/skills that I do not have. It is assuming I have the “right” answers or the “best” way to do something. How arrogant!?!
I want to learn how to stay engaged with other people at the helm, trusting their genius, their abilities, their insight. Not blindly, but trusting that they have more than just a suggestion, they have actual offerings that will work.
If I trusted my students, I would….
If I trusted my consumers, my actions would….
If I trusted myself, I would…
If I trusted my colleagues, my actions would….
Questions to deepen your practice:
What does trust mean to you?
What would it mean to trust the consumers you serve? The teams you work with?
What would it mean to trust yourself and your work? To trust yourself to be responsible for the good, bad, and ugly?
What is at risk when we do not trust the consumers? What is the benefit when we don’t trust them?
Holding space can seem a very vague and “woo-woo” term, but it just means being with someone non-judgementally in whatever they are doing, experiencing, or needing.
This requires actively setting aside our own preferences, interests, and opinions in order to create space, a non-judgemental space, for the clients to entertain and engage with one another’s thoughts, preferences, interests, and opinions. It does not mean I don’t matter but rather this isn’t the place for them. It requires that I truly engage the value of autonomy and activate my belief that the many “right” ways to be a human are beautiful, and to recognize the honor and privilege I have to bear witness to them.
Barriers to holding space:
Judgement of what is occurring
Preferences about what should be occurring
Belief that you are responsible to fix it
Questions to deepen your practice:
What barriers do you experience to holding space for consumers?
What do you need to be able to hold space for others?
What is the relationship between your interpreting and/or teaching practice and the idea of holding space?
In my coach training, we have been learning about the professional credentialing body of many coaches internationally (International Coaching Federation). We have started in earnest to collect our practice hours and start having individual feedback sessions with our teacher. In a recent session, we were discussing the rubric used to evaluate coaching session recordings by ICF. There are a number of categories, as you might imagine, but I want to talk about “coaching presence,” and the potential applications I see to this concept of presence for interpreters and interpreter educators.
According to ICF, coaching presence is defined as, “Being fully conscious and creating spontaneous relationships with clients, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident.” Some of the criteria used to evaluate is:
Competency 4: Coaching Presence
Coach’s questions and observations are customized by using what the coach has learned about who the client is and the client’s situation.
Coach inquires about or explores the client’s use of language.
Coach inquires about or explores the client’s emotions.
Coach inquires about or explores the client’s tone of voice, pace of speech or inflection as appropriate.
Coach inquires about or explores the client’s behaviors.
Coach inquires about or explores how the client perceives his/her world.
Coach is quiet and gives client time to think.
It seems to me a helpful frame that may be missing from interpreting and interpreter education. We do talk about impartiality, and being skilled but not about how we show up to the job and hold space for the communication event for which we were hired. We do not talk about the active work that it is to be present and yet withhold judgement, hold space for whatever needs to happen. It isn’t just a matter of being “neutral” (which we could argue about for eons and its impossiblity), it is about living out, actively, our values of non-interference, autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice (see Beachamp & Childress 2001).
How we show up in a space need not be happenstance, it actually requires active cognitive and emotional work to be present and make space for the interaction that we are responsible for, to hold space, regardless of our own preferences, opinions, etc. It is tapping in to a belief that its not about what *I* think should happen or needs to happen but rather about what the interlcoturs need to happen.
Developing an interpreter presence mantra, questions to deepen your practice:
What do you believe about ways of being human?
What do you want to remember about your function as an interpreter in other’s interactions?
What do you want to contribute to the space? Anxiety, calm, openness, etc?
What do you want to characterize your presence as an interpreter in interactions?
I am a calm presence.
I am open to the communication that occurs here today.
I understand people who use sign language and English, and they understand me (modified from a workshop participant recently).
Recently, I was listening to a pastor talking about connecting the dots to see the picture- seeing a page of seemingly random dots numbered on a page looks like a bunch of chaos. But once you start connecting the dots in number order, a picture is revealed.
I was immediately struck by this analogy, and as in most things, I see implications for interpreting and interpereter eduation immediately. This analogy of connecting the dots to reveal the picture, feels very relevant to the puzzle that is meaning transfer across languages and people.
One way of using this analogy would be thinking about the processing of the langauge itself, if we get the main points but not the details perhaps it is a rough representation of the picture at the level of only 10 dots to connect. But if we get the main points, details, tone, and intent then we end up with a detailed and intricate picture that required connecting 100s of dots.
Expanding upon the idea that language is a tool in the job, not the job itself, the analogy could be used for that. If I only connect the language dots (let’s say every 5th dot), the picture will be close but out of whack,where as if we connect the language, perception, interpersonal, communication, peopling dots, we get the whole picture in all its detals.
The analogy certainly falls apart at some point, but I think it is an interesting idea to play with to conceptually get the impact of missing details when you don’t have an actual consumer you are practicing with or the details seem inconsequential anyway as there were not significant negative consequences to missing them – they still matter as the picture is still incomplete.
Question to Deepen Our Practice
— What is the connection between “connecting the dots” and providing language/communication access in your work?
— What do you believe about language and meaning making between people?
I wrote recently about disorientation and the disorientation. We’ve all been experiencing because of COVID and the disorientation that we are commonly sharing. However, disorientation happens in regular life, too. When we are not in COVID and we are not in, you know, global pandemic. So as I’ve had some time to think about some things and do some decluttering. I have been wondering what to do with the inventory that I have of artwork that I’ve created.
I mentioned this in my recent artist newsletter that the artwork that I’ve created it’s already served its purpose. For me it’s about the process not the product. I’m happy to pass along to others, or sell to others, if it brings them joy and if it brings color and texture into their life in their world. But I don’t necessarily do art to sell it which is probably weird for an artist. I love when people resonate with something that I produce and support me by investing in it, and that sort of thing so don’t get me wrong I’m totally happy to sell my art, but it’s not why I create art.
Anyway, as I always do – I turned to Google or Pinterest to collect ideas about what people do with their inventory. And the answer is ranged from burn them to just keep painting over them to donate them to a hospital to all kinds of things. But one comment that I really resonated with was the idea of reusing pieces. So not the idea of painting over. But the idea that you would deconstruct a canvas to then use those pieces of materials to reconstruct something else, like a collage. So I’m intrigued by this idea and I took two canvases two very small canvases yesterday and deconstructed them. And what that meant was I took some scissors to it. And then as soon as I made a cut – I ripped, and it had frayed edges, and it had pieces of a focal point missing, that sort of thing.
Then I played around with collage pieces – like gelli print papers on deli paper, like other practice pieces of paper, stickers, book pages, and music sheets. I don’t think I did washi tape in this iteration at all. And then I looked at the canvas pieces and I wondered what I wanted to do with them.
One of them had a rose like flower on it and I cut it out. I cut it away from the background it was originally in, and it had been created with modeling paste. And so it had a 3d texture to it. And then I used the rest of the background and cut leaves or leaf shaped things out of it. And then started playing around with composition. Composition of what it could look like for this small canvas that was probably a 6×6 to then be translated and reconstructed with new elements into an 9×12 paper piece of artwork.
It was a really interesting process, it was a lot of fun.
I’m not an expert in collage, and I tend to take things just a step too far. So I did two pieces yesterday and one of them I like a lot, and the other one I took too far. And so I’m going to have to play around with that. But I think there are some significant metaphors of deconstruction and reconstruction. I think we often see disorientation or disruption. Deconstructing what we’ve always believed or deconstructing the way things have always been or deconstructing those kinds of things. But I don’t often hear a lot of discussion about the next step.
So we came from a place of orientation, a place of something that had originally been constructed. And now we’re in this disoriented place where deconstruction is happening. But if I just left my artwork in pieces on my on my table, and never attempted to integrate them with new elements. That’s just trash.
But if I can take the bits from what was or what was deconstructed, if I can take the bits and put them to new use and and introduce them to different elements and create a new thing, then the deconstruction part is a part of the entire journey and a part of the entire process, and nothing is wasted in that process.
And so I think in our world right now we have a whole lot of deconstruction happening. And that is probably a good thing, but it’s not the end of the story. The end of the story is in reorientation and reconstruction. And then it will all happen again of course right this is a cyclical process it’s not once and done. But we are right now in a very uncomfortable deconstruction and disorienting place, but it is not the end of the story, and just taking time to do that artwork yesterday, gave me a renewed hope. Reminding me of what I believe that this is not the end of the story. Then I can continue to endure the disorientation and the deconstruction with the hope for what is going to be reconstructed.
I’ll link to other blogs I’ve written about disorientation if that would be helpful to you. And I’m probably going to continue to play with this idea of deconstruction of canvases and playing around with collage, and delving into composition and learning more about composition, from a technical standpoint because it’s not like I said it’s not an area of my expertise.
So I have a couple of reflective questions for you. ◆ What are areas in your life that you would label as deconstructing or in a phase of deconstruction? ◆ When you look back at your life, can you see this cycle of construction deconstruction reconstruction, or orientation disorientation reorientation? What do you now know about yourself from reflecting on those cycles in your life in previous times. ◆ And I guess the final question would be how are you navigating right now. Are you aware of the phase that you’re in, are you how are you navigating that? How do you want to navigate that?
I entered this coach training with no experience being coached and exposure to coaching via podcasts, primarily. I have grown and learned so much! One of the best parts of the coach training is that we practice it with one another, thus I get coached in some way, shape or form weekly. It has been lovely and so enriching.
The aim of the practice coaching is to practice particular aspects of the structure, and/or tools that we are learning- but the byproduct is actual coaching on real things.
In my coaching sessions (being coached) we have covered areas of my life like leadership, planning for the future, morning routines, and movement during this “work from home” era.
I would say, as would those who know me well, that I am a naturally reflective person – I analyze things (ad nauseam at times), I look for meaning, I attempt to grow and focus on forward movement. And coaching has been amazing at really getting to the heart of things (not like therapy). The level of clarity I’ve received through the process, and the tangible steps I’ve been able to take are significant give that it is merely a byproduct of the training.
I’ve refocused my leadership to focus on my value that I am not irreplaceable. Meaning I want to equip, empower, and trust that in my absence the work still gets done and done well. Also, that if/when I should exit – colleagues are left better.
I’ve seen the connection between “evening Amanda” and “morning Amanda” by looking at the impact of my nightly routine on my morning routine- these 2 Amandas are still in process of becoming friends and collaborators for my best 😉
I’ve been introduced to a myriad of powerful questions that lead to insights and clarity that can be elusive at times. My current favorite question is,
“What are you pretending not to know?”
I’ve committed to developing rhythms of movement throughout the day including 1) a morning “commute” – stolen from a colleague in coaching training – this is a walk around my neighborhood for about 10-15 mins to separate my morning routing from the start of my work day and 2) restorative yoga at the close of business – another transition marker between work and home. I’ve just started this 2 days ago, so it hasn’t got much traction – but, I’m excited!
I can only imagine if I were being coached professionally, paying for it, and engaging fully, weekly what could come about. I’m adding this to my tools for thriving – I will be seeking out regular, consistent coaching from one of my coaching-mates or another coach in the very near future.