I spent the last week with my husband Kurt. I didn’t really have to share him with anyone. Kurt just returned from spending several months in Afghanistan with his squadron, and I am just super happy to have him back home again. The boys were at home for three days before they returned to MU for school to start the Spring semester. We traveled to southern Missouri so Kurt could see his parents, but all in all, I was never more than one room away from Kurt for the entire week. It was so nice. Spending time with him is something I treasure so much. Time has gone past so fast I can’t even begin to explain. I won’t even try.
While I was able to spend time getting back in sync with Kurt, I did think a lot about the people who I do spend most of my time with during the day — the teachers, counselors, secretaries and other staff members at Benton High School and in the St. Joseph School District. It was easy to think about what all my friends and colleagues were doing at certain times of the day, and I found that I was missing them. I miss them because I treasure them. I love how much we laugh together. I love how much we learn together. I guess I really love how much we are a family together. Times are not the easiest, but we are certainly bonded together through those tougher times.
January and February are the times when educators start thinking about transfers. It’s also the season when we start planning for the replacement of our colleagues who have decided to retire. All in all, it’s a long season. As a principal, you always want to encourage every staff member to stay with you in your vision and quest to provide the best educational circumstances possible to your clients. However, years ago, I learned a valuable lesson that I use in my own leadership now when I wished my leader would have put my best interest ahead of what was best for “the system.” I have never forgotten that, and so I try my best to do that for others.
No, I never want our super star teachers to leave the halls of Benton High School. I want them to stay and grow more and more super stars. I want them to grow our baby Cardinals. And I know I don’t tell any of them — any of you — enough how much you mean to me. The teachers at Benton High School are freaking hard workers. It’s not like I give them much choice to be anything else, and boy oh boy do they step up to the task. I am so proud of our staff. I know they work hard for our students. I guess what I am trying to say is that I realize they people who I truly treasure.
Kurt Flying by KGW, Kurt@Kabul by KGW, Treasure Chest by Crazy Cake Lady on Flikr (CC)
I guess as I start writing this post, I wonder if there are other principals out there who have to have as many tough conversations with staff members as I do and wish they didn’t. Oh, I’m not talking about the conversation we all eventually have to have where we tell a teacher that we are not going to renew his contract — no, I’m talking about the tough conversation surrounding correction of behavior. It’s the one we don’t think we should have to have, but it seems we have to have far too often. We understand why we have them with students, but adults? Come on! These conversations don’t involve a resource officer (don’t let the photo above fool you), but they often feel just as scary. Mostly from my side, I think. First of all, like I said earlier, I wish I didn’t have a talk like this to any teacher.
The most common conversation is usually about some rule following procedure, and the correction leaves a bad taste with the teacher. These conversations are ones I worry about the most because teachers usually react most strongly to the correction, and although I don’t mean any harm in what I say and always try to frame it positively, I don’t know if that is what the teacher takes away. I read a great book, Crucial Conversations, that really helped me frame those conversations. If you haven’t read this text, you should. It’s a great short read.
The second most common conversation is the alignment to a policy or vision. These are difficult because they take time to and often repeated conversations. And also, they are often difficult to discover, so by the time you do it’s hard to rectify the scenario or situation that is in place. I seem to have these conversations with my department chairs most often. I also find myself having these with my own supervisors. Talk about tough.
The third type of conversation is the academic one that follows from a myriad of walkthroughs you need to put a teacher on an initial improvement plan. Those are sensitive. I think I am actually most successful there because I really do want to help the teacher improve, and I think that comes across in my conversation.
In talking with my HR director, he reminded me to always work on leaving a person feeling good in a conversation. I always TRY to do that, but I don’t always succeed. I wonder how you always succeed?
Photo by me. “BHS Resource Officer and Asst. Principal in a tough conversation.”
Or in other words, back on the horse. My sons both ask me why all educational blogs look the same or “teach” the same, but then I looked around and could see what they were saying. I can’t tell you the number of times I have stopped in my tracks ready to post a specific idea and knowing that I was not able to honestly reflect as openly as I would want to be or need to be to teach or learn myself. This translated at the end, along with lack of time, to few and no blogs by the end of 2010. I want to change that by changing my purpose in 2011.
I wondered how many other administrators are in a similar place, and this stops them from trying. I don’t want to be here, so I started looking for examples of blogs that are not like that. My favorite, of course, is Dangerously Irrelevant. Scott delivers great connections. The material is tantalizing and delivered succinctly. You should check it out.
Picture by me. M&M in Hammer gear.