Clearing Things Up

I just have to offer some further explanation for my previous post. I had a visit from a staff member that I truly trust and whose opinion I sincerely respect and she said that some of my staff were upset about comments I made at the end of the previous post. The comments were:

I have no delusions thinking that I have earned that trust of my entire staff. I even think that there are some members of staff that will never trust me totally. One of my goals is to become better at identifying those people and then have the strength of will to simply forget about them. I can’t spend energy trying to win over a saboteur, I’m just going to make sure they don’t get their hands on any dynamite! In my second and future years of leadership I have to trust not only my own leadership abilities but the commitment and professionalism of staff to follow my lead.

The issue that some of my staff had with my comments were apparently that they think I am saying that I see anyone who disagrees with me as a saboteur and that I will ignore them. I have looked at it several times since we talked and while that was certainly not what I meant, I can see where someone would get that idea. I don’t think my actions have indicated that this is my approach but I have to try to take it from someone else’s point of view. Much like the commercial above, I have to consider context and make sure that my words are not misconstrued.

I want to make it clear that I don’t think that anyone who disagrees with me is a saboteur. I welcome people who disagree with me as I have no delusions about having all the answers or even knowing all the questions. I value honest and direct dialogue more than anything in our profession. I highlight those words because that is probably the context that I wanted to add to my previous posts. I think that the profession of teaching is dependent on honest and direct conversations. I get frustrated when I feel like I cannot be direct with someone. When I feel like I have to be “politically correct” or dance around an issue for fear of upsetting someone or triggering a response that is not intended. I would welcome a challenging voice as long as it was interested in dialogue and working together to get things done. I guess my idea of a saboteur is someone who is only looking to shoot down ideas and changes without an intention to work on it. Honestly, there has been very little of that in my first year but there has been a lot of indirect conversations that seem to avoid the point. There is a lot of dancing around things and I would hope to get more direct dialogue going so that things can get done.

I mentioned this to the teacher that brought the concerns to me and she made a good point that I had not considered. She mentioned that some people were simply not comfortable with such a direct nature. Some people may have read my blog and then felt powerless to do anything about it and unable to make a comment. That idea really hit home to me. I hate the idea that some of my staff would not want to approach me about things. That they would hesitate to share their opinions with me for fear of a reaction. I guess this is where my direct nature can be a detriment and where I have to work on my approach. The more I think about it the more I shake my head at my own blindness: I seek out and crave open and honest dialogue but have not done the work to set up a culture of that in our school. I have to do the ground work before the other stuff can happen.

I suppose that is the context that I needed to add to my previous post. That is the clarity that needs to accompany directness. I hope that people appreciate the fact that I want to be more than a facilitator in the school. I hope they appreciate a leader with a vision and not just a “yes man” or “cheerleader”, but I have to do the work to create an environment where not only my ideas, (and those of my supporters) are heard. Where those who disagree have a voice and the comfort to make that voice heard.

In the spirit of that I would encourage people to leave a comment in the section below if you would like. I guarantee that I will read all of them and release them for others to see. To my staff I would encourage you to email me questions or comments or to come see me about something that is bothering you so that we can make a better solution out of our ideas.

Thanks for reading and for the potential for comments.

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One Response to Clearing Things Up

  1. Open and honest dialogue is a commendable goal Mike and as you’ve seen it’s not always as easy as we’d like. I’ve had to learn that no matter how sincere and transparent my intentions, that at times that open and honest dialogue will not come for many reasons. It could be different perceptions of my agenda, uncertainty on the part of others on how to embrace new initiatives or just that occasional sense of being overwhelmed that people get. I think you still stay the course, try to listen more than suggest (I still struggle with that one) and deal with the speedbumps as they come. I commend your abilities as a self reflective practitioner and I’m sure your school community appreciates your energy and ideas. Congrats on just about making it through your first year as principal. Have a well deserved summer holidays and enjoy hitting the ground running next year.

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