Reviewing Annual Work Goals

I just celebrated my work anniversary on March first! Although this list of broad list of goals is not new, I wanted to put them down in writing.

  1. Be mindful.
  2. Be prepared.
  3. Be intentional.
  4. Clearly communicate emotions.
  5. Keep striving for high ideals.

Be mindful.  An established definition of mindfulness comes from John Kabat-Zinn: “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”. Employers have been encouraged to offer mindfulness exercises through worksite wellness programs as one way to reduce absences and increase productivity among staff. In addition, there are personal benefits to practicing mindfulness. The Extension employee who practices mindfulness is better prepared to react in a positive way to daily changes and challenges on the job as well as to boost the enjoyment of the successes and highlights of their career.

The practice of mindfulness will help you handle daily changes and challenges”…. and boost the enjoyment of the successes and highlights! I use mindfulness to help remind myself to breathe, focus, increase gratitude, decrease judgments and work from an asset based approach.

Be prepared.  I know this sounds like the Scouts motto but it’s a good goal for Extension staff.  Although flexibility is important for an Extension Educator, flexibility is a great second step to a well-prepared program. In addition, I have learned from previous colleagues that “unprep” time is just as important as “prep” time for classes. It takes time to unpack bags, restock handouts, input evaluations and return emails to participants about questions not answered during class. I’m not very good at scheduling unprep time.

Plan the work. Work the plan. ~ Paraphrased from Margaret Thatcher

Be intentional. First, be intentional with words, especially in public settings. Don’t default to acronyms or people’s first names when anyone in the group might be struggling to keep up with the information. Make it easy to follow up with contact information, links to specific articles or research. In addition to being intentional with words, adopt the five elements of brave space: Controversy with civility, Own your intentions and your impact, Challenge by choice, Respect and No attacks (Aroa & Clemens, 2013).

The National Council on Family Relations listed skills and knowledge needed for healthy family functioning.  They are also valuable in the workplace:

  • strong communication skills
  • knowledge of typical human development
  • good decision-making skills, positive self-esteem
  • healthy interpersonal relationships

I benefit from the work of my professional organizations and continued professional development. I use what I learn to strengthen my work. In 2020 when information is all around us, 24/7, I need to be intentional to take the time to read and use the information from my professional organizations and colleagues. As a Certified Family Life Educator, I am intentional about using an educational, preventative and strengths-based approach to support and empower individuals and families.

Clearly communicate emotions. This summary is from Understanding Your Emotions for Teen Health: “All emotions tell us something about ourselves and our situation. But sometimes we find it hard to accept what we feel. We might judge ourselves for feeling a certain way, like if we feel jealous, for example. But instead of thinking we shouldn’t feel that way, it’s better to notice how we actually feel.” Emotions, whether we label them as good or bad, are part of the human experience.

One we notice how we actually feel, it can be challenging to share with others, especially when experiencing strong emotions. The following description and example is taken from Manage Your Money, Ohio State University Extension, Lesson One: The Three Parts of an I-Message

  1. “I feel …” Make a clear statement of how you feel. (note, name your emotion, not what you are thinking)
  2. “When (this happens) …” Name specific behavior that caused you to feel that way.
  3. “Because …” Say why the behavior or event is upsetting.

 Instead of a “you-message” that tends to reflect blame and criticism, the “I-Messages” focus on specific examples. Instead of: “You never record the amounts of checks you write.” Try this: “I feel frustrated when we have to pay an overdraft fee from our checking account when [because] we don’t have enough money to cover the automatic bill payment for the utility company.”  (Manage Your Money)

I would like to add an additional statement and reminder.

Additional Statement: Feel free to add a fourth statement after the three part I-Message: “What I need is …” State what you need.

Reminder: Although this is a helpful communication framework to use when upset, it can also be used for positive feelings or emotions. For example, “I feel optimistic for our statewide FCS program when I hear about the good work and programs that my FCS county colleagues are offering across the state because it gives me inspiration. What I need is to keep up communication on this type of information on a regular basis.”

Keep striving for high ideals.

“I believe in my own work and in the opportunity I have to make my life useful to humanity. Because I believe these things, I am an Extension professional”. Extension Professional’s Creed

“I accept the opportunity to empower individuals, families and communities to meet their needs and goals through a learning partnership”. The National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences Creed.

“Keep interest in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time… Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind to you what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism …” from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann (1927).

Keep striving for high ideals. And surround yourself with heroes.

Using Brave Space for the 2019 “Growing Your Comfort Zone” Conference

Many Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) professionals, especially those who teach community nutrition programming like the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) are familiar with the acronym VOICE from Navigating for Success (NFS) by Cornell University.  VOICE is used as a set of guidelines during the NFS staff training as well as for staff to use when teaching nutrition programs in the local community. The VOICE concepts are summarized here:

  • Every participant chooses their comfort level for speaking in front of the group. They will not be called out and they are encouraged to participate in small group discussion.
  • The facilitator will give time for all participants to consider their responses and not rush to the next question.
  • Everyone will work to make the class welcoming for participation as well as letting all participants know what is happening at every given moment.
  • Start and end of time.
  • Encourage one another in class as well as in encouraging one another in ways to approach challenges related to the lesson topics outside of class.

For the 2019 OSU Extension Family and Consumer Sciences conference, it is recommended that FCS adopts the guidelines of “Brave Space” to balance the conference theme of “Growing Your Comfort Zone”. Why this set of guidelines?

  • Brave space guidelines and VOICE complement one another.
  • Not everyone attending the 2019 FCS conference will have been trained in Navigating for Success. This will offer a common set of guidelines for all conference attendees.
  • Brave space describes “the practice of safely fostering challenging dialogue within the classroom environment” (Ali, 2017). Although brave space has most often been used on campuses and university classrooms, the workshops and lessons at a state-wide conference are designed as professional development with goals of on-going learning like that of a classroom. Since the concept of brave space is related to “service-learning and community engagement programming” (Ali, 2017, p8) it also fits well with outreach and extension.
  • For Extension colleagues who are interested in learning more about brave space, a list of references and links are provided for on-going work and research.

list of 5 brave space elements

“Brave spaces are used today in classroom settings as a mechanism to create supportive environments so that all students may equally participate in challenging dialogue. The creation of brave spaces is never without the risk of discomfort for those participating, but they allow for a more enriching and extensive dialog while simultaneously providing tools of support for those who are most vulnerable. The purpose in providing these tools is to enhance – not detract from – participation and academic growth” (Ali, 2017, p9).  While the conference planning committee doesn’t anticipate that the conference will be difficult or unpleasant, the topic of “growing our comfort zone” could bring up topics and scenarios that are new and possibly uncomfortable.

What are the five elements of brave space?

  1. Controversy with civility
  2. Own your intentions and your impact
  3. Challenge by choice
  4. Respect
  5. No attacks (Aroa & Clemens, 2013)

A brief explanation of the brave space guidelines and how it applies to the Extension workplace, the state FCS conference and professional development.

 Controversy with civility. Varied opinions are accepted.

A common phrase is “agree to disagree.” One problem with this sentiment is that difficult conversations can be brushed off with the idea that, “no one is going to change their mind so why bother having any discussion”? The goal is not necessarily to change opinions or win a debate but to learn and seek understanding of other points of view. Controversy with civility “frames conflict not as something to be avoided but as a natural outcome in a diverse group” (Arao & Clemens, 2013, p144). In addition, the word civility “allows room for strong emotion and rigorous challenge” and that “continued engagement through conflict … strengthens rather than weakens diverse communities” (Arao & Clemens, 2013, p144).

 Owning intentions and impacts. Individuals “acknowledge and discuss instances where a dialogue has affected the emotional well-being of another person” (Ali, 2017, p3).

 Owning your intentions and your impact is a personal responsibility. It doesn’t force responsibility onto others in the way that the dismissive phrase, “don’t take things personally” might. The element of owning intentions and impacts certainly requires self-reflection which also takes time. Owning intentions and impacts isn’t necessarily the default during difficult discussions. It is not uncommon for individuals to have a defensive reaction during uncomfortable experiences. How do you best assess yourself, acknowledge your intentions and how you impact others?

In addition to self-reflection, “communicating effectively helps group members build trust and respect, foster learning and accomplish goals” (Franck Cyr, L. 2004). GroupWorks: Getting things done in groups offers a nice summary of active listening as well as direct, assertive expression. In addition, they address that feelings of anger during conflicts, “can provide information and stimulate energy that can be used positively” and there are productive ways to express and receive anger (Franck Cyr, L., 2004). It is recommended to use communication strategies such as the I-statement or I-language. For example, I feel …. (make a clear statement of how you feel); when ….. (name the specific behavior or situation that caused you to feel that way); because …. (say why the behavior or event is upsetting) (Manage Your Money, 2019). Additional phrases or steps added to I-language include: reflect the other’s perspective and end with either a suggestion or solution such as “can we try ….?”

Challenge by choice. Personal option “to step in and out of challenging conversations” and activities (Ali, 2017, p3).

This phrase has roots in youth experiential education programming and outdoor learning. It acknowledges the individual’s “right to choose the challenge to try something outside his or her comfort zone but to be respected by the facilitator and peers if ultimately deciding not to follow through” (Torretta & VanderWey, 2019). While facilitators respect and recognize that engagement in activities cannot be forced, participants will be encouraged to, “be aware of what factors influence their decisions about whether to challenge themselves on a given issue” and to “think about what keeps them from challenging themselves” (Arao & Clemens, 2013, p. 147).

Respect. “Show respect for one another’s basic personhood” (Ali, 2017, p4).

While this element is easily accepted by most people, Arao and Clemens point out that respect might look and sound different to everyone. Some examples of respect are rooted in culture. One example they gave was the difference between not interrupting someone (in order to show respect) verses other settings and cultural contexts where “interruption and talking over one another is welcome” (2013, p148). Their goal is not to create a consensus of exactly what respect looks and sounds like but to encourage participants to be aware of “the different ways they can demonstrate respectfulness to one another” (Arao & Clemens, 2013, p148). In addition, participants are also encouraged to reflect on “how they might firmly challenge the views of someone else in a respectful manner” (Arao & Clemens, 2013, p148).

No attacks. No intentional harm on one another.

Like respect, most people accept this element as a valuable part of discussion. On the other hand, it is not uncommon to disagree on, “the differences between a personal attack on an individual and a challenge to an individual’s idea or belief or statement that simply makes an individual feel uncomfortable” (Arao & Clemens, 2013, p148). Some examples of attacks are obvious like name calling and should not be used in civil discussion. At the same time, when emotions are involved and the discussion feels heated, statements could easily be misconstrued as attacks when that is not the intention. Arao & Clemens remind participants, “that pointed challenges are not necessarily attacks, but the uncomfortable experience that may result can sometimes lead to a defensive reaction” (2013, p149) (Naden & Stark, 2016) (Zembylas, 2015). This is an example of a moment when it might be beneficial to take a deep breath and review the list of brave space elements. Ask yourself: Is this scenario really an attack or is it an example of controversy with civility? As a participant in this conversation, am I being honest about my intentions and my impact within the discussion?

The goal of brave space is to create “a climate where students are willing to ‘risk honesty’ so that an authentic exchange of ideas becomes possible” (Ali, 2017, p6). Growing our comfort zone might involve some risk but it is encouraged as a calculated risk in order to grow and learn from one another.

 

References:

Ali, D. (2017). Safe spaces and brave spaces: Historical context and recommendations for students affairs professionals. NASPA Policy and Practice Series. Issue 2. Retrieved from: https://www.naspa.org/images/uploads/main/Policy_and_Practice_No_2_Safe_Brave_Spaces_DOWNLOAD.pdf

Arao, B., & Clemens, K. (2013). From safe spaces to brave spaces: A new way to frame dialogue around diversity and social justice. In L. Landreman (Ed.). The art of effective facilitation: Reflections from social justice educators (pp. 135-150). Sterling, VA: Stylus. Retrieved from: https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/inclusive-teaching/wp-content/uploads/sites/355/2016/06/From-Safe-Spaces-to-Brave-Spaces.pdf

Franc Cyr, L. (2004). Bulletin #6103, Effective Communication, GroupWorks: Getting things done in groups. University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.umaine.edu/publications/6103e/

Manage Your Money Lesson 1: Getting started (2019). Ohio State University Extension, Retrieved from https://fcs.osu.edu/programs/major-program-areas/healthy-finances/money-management/manage-your-money

Naden, Y., & Stark, M. (2017). The pedagogy of discomfort: Enhancing reflectivity on stereotypes and bias. British Journal of Social Work, 47 (3). Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/bjsw/article/47/3/683/2622288

Navigating for Success Lesson 1: Getting acquainted and facilitating learning (2017). Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University.

Torretta, A., & VanderWey, S. (2019). Creating group norms by using full value commitments in experiential education programming. Journal of Extension, 57 (3), 3TOT8. Available at https://www.joe.org/joe/2019june/tt8.php

Zembylas, M., (2015). ‘Pedagogy of discomfort’ and its ethical implications: The tensions of ethical violence in social justice education. Ethics and Education 10 (2):163-174.

Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) utilizing Family Life Education (FLE)

For a link to both infographics, (Family Life Education Framework: Across the Lifespan and Family Life Education Methodology: The Planning Wheel) please visit FLE Infographics

Introduction to Family Life Education (FLE) Infographics

The Family Life Education (FLE) Framework has successfully guided program development, delivery, and assessment. In an effort to help make the FLE Framework approachable for students and professionals, a team of Certified Family Life Education (CFLE) practitioners have designed two infographics. The goal is to share the value and content of the conceptual model in a way that FLE students and professionals can easily access, view, and implement FLE methodology in their classroom assignments. These infographics are designed to complement, not replace the National Council on Family Relations’ current FLE Framework materials.

Short History

In 2015, a small group of Family Life Educators in OSU Extension (all members of the National Council of Family Relations and actively working on certification and recertification for family life education) met to better understand, utilize and share the resources of our field of study and our professional organizations. The National Council of Family Relations (NCFR) is the premier professional association for the multidisciplinary understanding of families. Although the NCFR’s Family Life Education (FLE) Framework undoubtedly complements the work of Family and Consumer Sciences, we also encourage our Extension colleagues in other program areas to recognize themselves as Family Life Educators. As Extension staff, we all have the same goals of sharing research-based information in the community, utilizing best practices for presenting that content and helping improve the lives of Ohioans.

 

Family Life Education Methodology Planning Wheel

Family Life Education Methodology Planning Wheel

FLE Framework, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional Resources:
What Is Human Ecology? Dr. Cheryl Achterberg, Scholar in Nutritional Development, Dean of The Ohio State University College of Education and Human Ecology.

For more information including a link to both infographics, (Family Life Education Framework: Across the Lifespan and Family Life Education Methodology: The Planning Wheel) please visit We welcome your input on two new infographics related to Family Life Education

Family Life Education Methodology, Family Life Education Methodology Planning Wheel

Handout, Family Life Educator Content Areas, Worksheet for Family and Consumer Sciences Examples

Presentations:

Contact:

Please contact us with any questions, ideas or comments on how you have used Family Life Education Methodology in your work.

“Where Science and Art meet Life and Practice”

In the previous century, Ruby Green Smith stated Home Economics is where “science and art meet life and practice.”  Home Economics is now known as Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) and the quote still describes the work I do as a community educator in Northwest Ohio.  She also described extension’s home demonstration work as helping women learn to “cooperate with others for the common ends of a more abundant home and community life.”  As Extension celebrates 100 years in 2014, OSU Extension Family and Consumer Sciences celebrates November Live Smart Ohio Month with Better Lives, Stronger Communities.