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Words of Wisdom

52 cards and 15 activities to spark conversations and deepen learning.
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What We Do

The Firefly Group helps people use everyday situations for learning and connecting to the Big Picture. After working with Firefly, you will be energized with specific action steps to achieve your goals.

We do this through training of trainers, leadership development, performance improvement training, strategic planning, writing training manuals, and clarification of organizational mission and vision. Our methods are engaging, thought-filled, and results-oriented.

If this sounds like a good direction for your organization, let's talk about how we might collaborate! Please give me a call (802.257.7247) or send an . - Brian

Your ETR (Estimated Time to Read): 10 minutes
Your ETII (Estimated Time to Implement Ideas):
5 weeks

Read my book
Say It Quick!

Special Event

Attend Motion Activated November 19, 2014 in Rutland, Vermont. Join Brian Remer and Kate Link as they explore the importance of incorporating movement into the process of learning. Discover new ways that movement can help your training bring out the best.

Sponsored by Vermont ATD. Click HERE for more information.


November 2014

Say It Quick
a thoughtful message in exactly 99 words

bits of serendipity to inspire and motivate
fuel for your own continuous learning
tips and tricks you can try today
Mud Season Vocabulary for Education

Saying it with Feeling

Trade Up

Readers Respond

Hi Brian,
This newsletter (October 2014) was great! I loved the story on motion sickness... I like the term "sedentary sickness". I wanted to share the article with you which was the root of our phrase "sitting is the next smoking". Actually, the title of the article is even better, "He Who Sits the Most Dies the Soonest". Check it out. -- Kim Gilberti, Syracuse.

Thanks, Kim! And HERE is an additional article about the importance of movement in which it is argued that two or more hours a day of screen time may be linked to cardiovascular diseases. -- Brian Remer


Say It Quick

Do attitudes determine our words or do words reinforce our attitudes? Discover why this is important beginning with this 99-Word Story.

Mud Season
One muddy spring day I loaded the garbage into the car for a trip to the dumpster at the bottom of the hill. I inched carefully down our unpaved road trying to avoid the deep sloppy tracks by riding the high ground. No use! The muck grabbed the tires and I could only hang on and keep moving. The car steered itself, scraping bottom all the way.

Reaching the pavement I congratulated myself and sped off. How glad I was to be out of a rut!

But I wasn't really. The garbage was still in the car!



Vocabulary for Education

How can we improve the quality of organizational learning?

A recent story on National Public Radio suggests that we might begin with the words we use to describe who is doing the teaching and who is doing the learning.

Eve Abrams reported about the shift in language used to describe education in a story titled "The New Vocabulary of Urban Education." Abrams focused on New Orleans where the majority of children attend charter schools. She noted that these institutions often refer to themselves as "academies" rather than schools. And the children who attend the academies are "scholars." The intention is to raise standards and expectations.

Charter schools have used this change in terminology both to attract highly qualified teachers to difficult urban neighborhoods and to set the tone for the learning environment. As one educator explains, "We have big goals for you… We have big ideas. So you're not just a regular old student. You follow our values, you follow our school rules. That means you're a scholar."

"No word is magical in changing behavior," says Larry Cuban [professor emeritus at Stanford University's Graduate School of Education], but using words like "scholar" and "academy" can change the way students and teachers think about what happens in the classroom."

Considering how easy it is to slide into a rut with training in the work setting, that's a lesson we can transfer to many aspects of organizational life.

You can listen to the whole story or read a transcript at this link: The New Vocabulary of Urban Education by Eve Abrams, October 17,2014, National Public Radio (http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/10/17/355182723/the-new-vocabulary-of-urban-education).



Saying it with Feeling

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!"

That phrase was a truism on the playground but, in fact, names do hurt. Words can hurt. All words have emotional impact. Like any other sensory input, what we hear passes through our amygdala for emotional coding before it reaches our cortex for intellectual processing. Unless we are especially attentive, we may not even register the emotions attached to the words we hear. But we do feel them.

And as the NPR story suggests, our emotions shape our attitudes which influence our actions.

Often trainers talk about the audience they will be teaching. But consider the attitudes and expectations that result from referring to people who learn as members of an "audience." An audience is passive. An audience expects to be entertained. An audience needs a performer and a performer has to deliver a flawless piece in order to achieve the goal, a hearty round of applause. Where is there room for learning in this situation?

On the other hand, when trainers talk about "participants," different outcomes are possible. Participants are actively involved. Participants can initiate avenues for exploration. Participants need a facilitator who can suggest alternatives and remove barriers so learning can be discovered.

We speak using the words that feel comfortable. And the words that come to mind most easily are connected to our unquestioned beliefs and experiences. Facial expressions and gestures may be ambiguous, but language is probably the most obvious indicator of our attitudes. Language affects attitudes and attitudes affect language. Both have implications for the actions we take.

I don't know whether this cycle begins with attitudes or with language. But I do know that it ends by noticing that each revolution of the cycle digs a deeper rut. Left unnoticed, we can sail along still loaded with garbage in spite of our good intentions.



Trade Up

The interaction of language and attitudes can create a negative rut in our thinking. But if the relationship between language and attitude is so strong, we can also use that relationship to form positive habits and reinforce a respectful outlook.

Here is an activity to highlight the connections between language and attitudes. Use it to inspire your group to reconsider their own workplace attitudes then what happened as a result.

Title: Trade Up

Purpose: To examine attitudes and their implications for workplace actions

Participants: 22 people but expandable to any number

Time: 20 minutes Materials: One Job Title card for each individual

Make a list of paired job titles that are similar in nature but use different words to describe responsibilities that are essentially the same. Write one job title on each card.


Garbage Collector and Recycling Engineer
Teacher and Faculty Member
In-Home Assistant and Home Health Aid
Mentor and Personal Coach
Adjunct Faculty and Visiting Professor
Mercenary Soldier and UN Peace Keeper
Public Servant and Politician
Laborer and Employee
Flight Attendant and Flight Safety Specialist
Data Entry Specialist and Data Analyst
Customer Service Representative and Telemarketer

Randomly distribute one card with one job title on it to each person. For more than 22 people make more combinations of Job Title cards or make more cards of the original set. It doesn't matter if some people have the same Job Title card.

Explain that you have randomly given a job title to each person. The goal is to get a better job by trading your Job Title card with someone else. Ask people to move around the room looking at the job titles that other people have been given. When they see a job title they like better than their own they can trade cards if the other person is willing.

Allow about 5 minutes for trading then expand and apply learning from this activity by using some of the following discussion questions.



If you like what you have read in this issue, I would like to bring the same innovation, creativity, and playfulness to your next meeting or learning event.

Whether you need a keynote speaker, or help with strategic planning, performance improvement, or training facilitators and trainers in your organization, I look forward to your call (802.257.7247) or .

-- Brian

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