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An honest window

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The art classroom
Los Angeles Leadership Academy
2012


“Alrighty then!” the petite woman at the front of the room bubbles out of her mouth with more than a touch too much enthusiasm. 

Roger, the school’s founder, has just finished introducing her with “Give Carol your LA Leadership Academy best.”

A half-day professional development. 

Oh, joy!

(Sarcasm.)

***

Carol clasps her hands together and waits.

I look up from my doodle and, for a moment, see her inner ten-year-old, desperate for an adult to tell her she’s doing a good job.

“Picture this,” she begins, “The Johari Window. It’s like a magical framework that helps you and your team become best buds with your own strengths and weaknesses.”

She draws a box, covering most of the white board, and subdivides the box into equal parts with a horizontal and a vertical line.

“It’s like a mirror for your conscious and unconscious biases, helping you see yourself in a whole new light.”

I keep my eyes down and continue to doodle on the blue folder in front of me. 

I hate her already.

***

“With this nifty tool, you get to compare what you think are your superhero strengths and, well, let’s call them your ‘opportunity for growth areas,’ with what others see.”

I tell myself not to look up and make eye contact with anyone for fear I will just start laughing.

Carol continues, “This exercise will be like getting feedback from your teammates to see if they think you’re the next superhero or just a sidekick in the making.”

***

I know that people are annoying only when we choose to be annoyed at them.

But I’m doubting it’s a choice at present.

***

“So, recapping,” she says, while putting the top on a dry-erase pen and giving a wink to no one in particular.

“The Johari Window is your guide to self-awareness, helping you uncover hidden gems about yourself and ensuring that you and your team are on the same page. It’s like a team-building treasure hunt, but instead of gold, you find a better understanding of yourself and your colleagues. How about that for a team-building adventure, eh?”

“Let’s do this,” I say aloud. 

I do so mainly to demonstrate to Roger my willingness to be a team player. 

But also, because I kinda feel bad for her and don’t want her to fail.

***

We break into small groups to tell each other “wonderful qualities” we see in each other.

Carol bubbles, “Now for something, as Monty Python would say, completely different! Exploring the Hidden. This quadrant is a courageous and empowering journey. 

“Let’s all be super hero vulnerable and tell each other parts of who we are that our teammates might not know about.”

She points to Carlos, the heavily tattooed ninth grade Algebra teacher.

“Hey, inked legend! Your tattoos tell stories, but what about the stories behind the ink? I’m talking about the epic life only you know. Ready to share the backstage secrets, the hidden chapters?” 

Carlos pulls on his long, scraggly beard and muses, “What people don’t know about me….” 

He trails off and repeats himself, “What people don’t know about me…is that….”

He pauses again, and shoots a quick look at me.

IDK why.

I know that my title, “rabbi,” sometimes makes me the focus of some projections.

“What people don’t know about me is that I have a really deep spiritual life. I’m not over the death of my grandmother, and I talk with her, and she’s always with me.”

***

The spiritual bandwagon continues from Carlos. 

As we go in a circle, one teacher after another completes the “What you don’t really know about me” exercise with some variation of “I’m really deeply spiritual” and a soft-warm-glow example of their inner zen.

I doodle.

***

“Well, me?” I say, pencil on page, still doodling.

I look around the room and muse, “What’s there to know that you don’t know? You already know I’m spiritual.”

I weigh the options about letting loose with the truth and decide it’s worth the risk.

“What you don’t know about me, your only and favorite rabbi on the staff here, is that I’m also a calculating asshole.

“Underneath the kind and patient exterior is a planning and judgmental ass. That’s what you don’t know. I thought about saying this. And only chose to because I thought it would make me look good. 

“Sure, I lead with light and love. And I believe it’s important to do so. But not too far from the surface, I’m judging you and thinking about what I’m going to say before I say it.

***

Carlos breaks the silence in the room with, “And that’s why I love you, Rabbi. You aren’t afraid to be honest.”

I say, “I thank you, Carlos. And, Carol, I thank you, as well. It might be good manners speaking, but it might also be ‘cause you’ve helped me be more honest with my team here.”

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