Musings on the Art of Focused Conversations

Words of wisdom from an elementary school principal this week. In my current position, I do a LOT of conversations with students. Since my school operates an extremely innovative model (I’ll save that for another blog post), much of my work is spent having conversations with students. However, I was talking to a new staff member this year that I helped hire and she mentioned that even though advising and conversing with students (on home visits, in school, online, on the phone, etc.) make up a large part of job we do not yet have a formalized process for how those conversations should be structured.

It was with this thought on my mind that I entered with into one of my Michigan State grad classes this week. We had a guest speaker, an elementary school principal, who at first I did not think I would learn much from. However, it turns out that he was incredibly well-read and peppered his speech full of references and resources. My edu-catalogue for leadership reading material is now completely full!

Anyway, he discussed the art of having intentional conversations. Enter – “The Art of Focused Conversations for Schools” by ┬áJo Nelson. Available on Amazon here.


The premise is that educators need to structure conversations for not only students, but also parents. Our students need to also practice the art of having a structured conversation. In the work I have done with my at-risk students, having & holding a successful conversation are not exactly skills they have demonstrated successfully. I also found a handy infographic of the elements of a focused conversation:


I introduced this book & related message to my director so I think we are going to incorporate this structure starting this summer in our student conversations. I love how the layout provides a framework that every educator can enhance from new to veteran teachers. Most important key to success will be modeling, practice, and consistent implementation. Ready to focus!