Tough Conversations


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.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *