You Are Now The Host

Key Points

  • A conversation is a safe space where different views are welcome but attacks are not–it’s moderation.

  • A conversation opens with a question not an answer–it’s facilitation.

Superintendent David Miyashiro and Cajon Valley USD students
Superintendent David Miyashiro and Cajon Valley USD students leading a community conversation

At least Zoom lets you know when you are the host. Nobody tells a new school or system leader that when they step into their new responsibility, they are the host of a community conversation.

A conversation opens with a question not an answer–it’s facilitation. It’s about who is invited and who has voice.  

A conversation is a safe space where different views are welcome but attacks are not–it’s moderation.

Conversation is creativity–it’s an act of design. “The most powerful thing about applying creative constructs to the conversations that you make is that they can help balance power, protect from inequities, and do it in a way that’s built into the very structures that govern the conversations,” said Fred Dust, author of Making Conversation.  

A conversation is a dialog–it’s not a campaign. (Campaigns can raise visibility– just don’t mistake telling for listening.)

A conversation opens with a question not an answer–it’s facilitation. It’s about who is invited and who has voice.  

Tom Vander ARk

A conversation moves a community forward–a bridge from thinking to acting. A conversation can yield agreement–but after intent is announced, stakes are explored, and terms of mutual consent are created.

A school staff conversation can yield an improvement agreement (e.g., “Let’s do things better next week”).

A community conversation can yield an innovation agreement (e.g., “Let’s do something different hoping for dramatic improvement”).

Edleaders host conversations that shape the way the community thinks about young people and its future.

Tom - Speaking Engagements

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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