« Sir Ken Robinson's The Element or Transforming Education | Main | THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE RIGHT JOBS - ALLOWING STUDENT ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM »

WHAT I THINK I SAY: WHAT I THINK OTHERS HEAR

| 9 Comments

I have said, "We must be explicit about what we want students to know, understand and be able to do."
What some heard was, "You are not doing a good job."
I have said, "We will be more effective of we collaborate and work together to figure out how to best meet the needs of our students."
What some heard was, "You are not doing a good job."
I have said, "The responsibilities of public education have changed; we can learn together how to be successful in this new environment."
What some heard was, "You are not doing a good job."
I have said, "I believe in the ability of teachers to reach and teach ALL children."
What some heard was, "You are not doing a good job."


I am quickly approaching my fourth year as principal in my current school. At times I feel as thought the four years have flown by; other times, I feel like it has been a very long - and very arduous period. I must preface this by admitting that as far as challenges in public education go, this position is a dream job. Our district is blessed with plentiful resources, very involved and supportive parents, and a student population that is extremely compliant and very well-behaved. However, examining practices and looking at how to move our school forward collectively and how to ensure that we are creating an environment in which every child is valued, nurtured, and provided with opportunities has been a journey fraught with unexpected challenges both personally and professionally.

I accept the bulk of the responsibility for how things have gone. In all honesty - we have made a good bit of progress in breaking down some barriers among professional staff, building a level of trust and comfort in speaking one's mind and sharing one's thoughts, challenges, and successes, and in developing a common vision for what is needed within our organization. However, doing the really hard work of following through on the "what is needed" - getting teachers to truly work together as professionals and discuss, debate, and work through issues of planning/choosing what is to be taught and how to assess student learning - that is a different story!

As much as I have read about the importance of understanding an organization's culture (and I do believe I own and have read almost every book that has been published) when proposing any type of change, I greatly underestimated the impact of my words, actions, and what I can only describe as the 'balance of power.' I also do not think I realized the degree to which each individual's psychological needs contribute to the working of the organization as a whole and how - as the positional leader - understanding, taking into consideration, and responding to how my leadership effects each person - requires skills I never thought about.

I am currently involved in a leadership training called "Pattern Aware Leadership." We are examining the patterns of our families and our upbringing that impact who we are and how we approach our work and our relationships. It has been enlightening. The bottom line message - EVERYTHING IS ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS. And, how we operated within our families - the patterns that were established and in place even before we entered into the dynamic - very much effects how we operate within the various organizations and systems to which we belong. This experience is causing me to be a bit more introspective about my role in the current 'state of affairs' in my school.

In addition, I am reading a book by Edward L. Deci titled Why We Do What We Do.I began the book in an effort to look more deeply into the motivation of students. Deci's work certainly has given me much to think about for that topic, but spoke LOUDLY and CLEARLY about what I need to attend to in working with teachers. Deci writes about being "autonomy supportive"- which he describes as being able to take another person's perspective, build alliances, and engage in new situations from that person's perspective. It involves providing choice both a the individual and group level and sharing decision-making. However, Deci also emphasizes that supporting autonomy does not mean allowing people to do whatever they choose; setting limits is indeed crucial.

I will close with a brief excerpt from Deci's book that I believe is wonderful food for thought for this blog:

In a way it is all quite ironic. Parents, politicians, and school administrators all want students to become creative problem-solvers and to learn material at a deep, conceptual level. But in their eagerness to achieve these ends, they pressure teachers to produce. The paradox is, the more they do that, the more controlling the teachers become, which, as we have seen so many times, undermines intrinsic motivation, creativity, and conceptual understanding in the students . . . One of the most important implications of this is that for people in such positions - teachers, parents, and managers, for example - will not be very effective in supporting the autonomy of their students and employees if they do not have their own support. Finding that support- finding a network of people who will help you satisfy your own needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness - is one of the most important aspects of promoting autonomy in the people you teach, care for, or supervise.
(emphasis mine)

Perhaps this on-line community is part of that network.


Sue King

9 Comments

Hi Sue
great post .... resonated with me given some difficult conversations we have been having at school recently where I thought I was focusing on professional issues and some people took it to be a "you are not doing a good job" conversation.
Bill Mulford the Australian ed management writer would agree with you about relationships being paramount.
I have found the work I have done with Joan Dalton and David Anderson (plotpd.com) invaluable for these issues and for my thinking about careful management of language and the people processes involved in learning communities. Some more reading :-)
cheers
Greg

This is why Boleman and Deal's four frames or lenses made such a lasting impact on me for for so long. In fact, these are literally framed in my office to remind me to remember to think how my words and actions will be seen in the context of these frames especially the symbolic. After all, as B & D say, it is not what happens but what it means, how people interpret those actions and words, and how the past influences.

So, you're feeling unheard and misunderstood. Welcome back to the world of teaching; you've apparently been doing something else for a while.

How many times does a 4th grade teacher need to say - Put your name on the paper; Capital letters at the beginning of every sentence, punctuation at the end; and Line up quietly, please?

I suppose, Little Cricket, you thought adults would be more interested in what you have to say than 4th graders.

Hi Sue - I found your post interesting. I was going to respond from a teacher's perspective, but my comment got too long so I posted about it on my blog, if you're interested. http://imadreamerteacher.blogspot.com/2009/04/bulk-of-responsibility.html

From an admitted "Defensive Teacher" this is the type of "Leadership" that creates my defensiveness. I - you. I - you. I - you. I - you. "I" as the administrator - "you" as the teacher. "I" will tell "you" what to think, what to do, and how to do it. There needs to be a "We."

Saw an exerpt from your post on Dangerously Irrelevant... and it got me to thinking about the reality of not being able to do everything and the need to focus on priorities being a possible contributor to defensive reactions...

http://pluggedinteacher.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/interesting-juxtaposition/

I think it's important to always recognize peoples' strengths and efforts... I think it can be very easy to critizice, and sometimes comments can be perceived as criticism even when that's not the intent.

You're right... relationships make all the difference I think. And I see this as a feedback loop... our relationships effect how we perceive others actions... and others' actions affect our relationships with them.

It has been so beneficial to read the comments; this is the type of reflection I need!

Regarding the response from Mr. Roth - "I" - "You"? Not sure I follow. The opening was meant to illustrate what I THOUGHT I was communicating - phrased as "we." Yet, I acknowledged that is not what was heard. That was the overall 'gist' of what I have come to realize and what I am working towards addressing in the way I do my job as a building principal. Having spent many years as a teacher, when adminstrators or presenters or authors suggested different things to try to be more effective, I did not hear criticism. Yet, I know others did. That is what I am seeing now. Some teachers have said, "Thank you for providing leadership; thank you for pushing me to examine my practice and for providing me opportunities to grow." Others have heard criticisms. What I see is that I have to do more - do a better job - in reaching out to ALL and to develop the sense of WE. But the "WE" is made up of many, many different types is "I"s. That is the challenge!! We must ALL learn to walk in each other's shoes for a bit!

Maybe, just maybe, if someone in charge of telling teachers what to do, would do something instead of telling us what to do, then we would see why we should listen to you.

Until you show me--prove to me, convince me--that your new method works, I won't use it.

Considering there has not been much innovation in the last hundred years or so in education, I am not holding my breath, but rather, teaching my students.

Don't take on the problem if you are just going to tell others to fix it!

The climate of a school originates in the principal's office. Your teachers seem anxious and uneasy. Have you done something to make them feel this way? Have any unsatisfactory evaluations been given out lately? Have teachers been forced to leave because you make them feel threatened? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then your teachers do not feel that they are working in the "dream job" that you are! Before you criticize your staff, it may be time for an honest look at your management style.

Comments are now closed for this post.

Advertisement

Recent Comments

  • James Keefer: The climate of a school originates in the principal's office. read more
  • tft: Maybe, just maybe, if someone in charge of telling teachers read more
  • Sue King: It has been so beneficial to read the comments; this read more
  • Trevor: Saw an exerpt from your post on Dangerously Irrelevant... and read more
  • Tom Roth: From an admitted "Defensive Teacher" this is the type of read more

Archives

Categories

Technorati

Technorati search

» Blogs that link here

Tags

#ccko9
#eci831
#ic3s21
#passiondriven
1:1
1:1 laptops
21st century
21st Century
21st Century Schools
21st Century Skills
21st Century skills
Abraham Lincoln
Accountability
accountabilty
adifference
administrator
Adolescent Literacy Panel
advice
aldonza
aleccouros
Alfie Kohn
Angela Maiers
aptitude
Arthur Benjamin
Artists
Arts
ASCD
Assessment
astronaut
Author
avatar
basketball
Beyond Discipline
Blog
blogging
blogs
boss
calculus
Capacity
Career and College Readiness
Carnegie Foundation
CEDS
Cell Phones
Challenge
Change
change
Charleston Children's Museum
Chris Anderson
CIES
class blogs
Clay Shirky
College
Colonel Eileen Collins
commenting
commitment
communication
community
Community
comparative
compassion
compensation
Comprehension
Comprhension
computers in the classroom
Constructivism
cookie
Copyright_infringement
Copyright_laws
Council of Conscience
Creativity
creativity
Creativity Conversation
Creativity Index
Cultivate
Dan Pink
death valley
Decision making
dennisar
Derailed
Disruptive Innovation
Divergent
dkuropatwa
Don Quixote
Dr. Jeff
Dr. Jeff Goldstein
Drive
dulcinea
education
Education
Education in the United States
educational change
educational leadership
Educational Leadership
educational technology leadership
Educators
effectiveness
Element
empathy
Enactivism
energy savings
Engage
Engineering
engineering
evaluation
evernote
evsc
Facebook
failure
Feedback
Festival
Film festival
firing
formative and summative assessments
Frank Smith
friendship
Future
Garr Reynolds
georgesiemens
Global
Golden Rule
Grades
green technology
heart
heart of a teacher
high school
High school
Higher Education
Higher Order Thinking Skills
hire
history
HOME
Home School Partnership
Homework
hospitals
humility
I Notice
Ian Jukes
Ideas
Identity crisis
imagination
improvement
Improvement
Indexing
influence
innovation
Innovation
innovation3
innovation3 llc
inspiration
instructional leadership
Interests
international
International Society for Technology in Education
interview
ipad
ISTE
Jayson Richardson
job
Job Readiness
John Seely Brown
K through 12
K-8
Karen Armstrong
karl fisch
kellychristopherson
Kent
leaderhhip coaching
leadershiop
leadership
Leadership
leadership development
leadership management influence
Leadership Resources
lean
learning
Learning
Learning 21st Century
legislation
Lifelong learning
Literacy
Literacy and Learning
Love
Man of La Mancha
management
math
math education
mathematics
Mathematics
mboe
Media literacy
medicine
mentoring
merit pay
mguhlin
Michael Watkins
Minds on Fire
moodle
Motivation
Movies
Multiple choice
NAESP
NASA
national educational technology plan
National Governors Association
NCESSE
Neil Rochelle
netbooks
NETS-A
Norma Rae
Nurture
Obama
one to one
online
online learning
Online Software
Originality
osu
Paradoxical Commandments
Parent Invovlement
Parent Partnership
passion
Passion Driven Classroom
Passion Education
Passion Leadership
performance
pete reilly
peter o'toole
Peter Senge
plagiarism
pln
PLN
plurk
Positive feedback
power
preconceptions
President Kennedy
principal
Principal
principal preparation
priorities
probability
Problem Solving
productivity
Professional development
publishing
read/write web
Reading
Reading Next
Reflection
reform
religion
reorganization
research
saving IT dollars
Schedules
school leadership
School Reform
schooling
Science
science
Scott McCloud
Scott McLeod
Second Life
self management
Seth Godin
Shall We Dance?
Shanghai
SIF
Sir Ken Robinson
sir ken robinson
SLC
Social Media
Social Networking
sophia loren
Standardized test
statistics
STEM
stephaniepacemarshall
stephendownes
strategy leadership
student achievement
student led conferences
suffering
summer
Switzerland
systemic change
Teacher
teacher
Teacher Professional Development
teachers
Teachers College Columbia University
teaching
technology
Technology
technology change
Technology integration
technology research
TED
TED Prize
textbooks
The First 90 Days
thin client
Thinking
Thomas Dewey
Tim Irwin
time management
Time To Act
transformation
transformative change
transitions
Tribes-We Need You To Lead Us
twitter
Twitter
Uniqueness
United States
University
University of Alabama-Birmingham
University of Kentucky
vacation
Value
Vision
vision
Wagner
walkthroughs
Web 2.0
Web Filtering
Webinar
weighting
Whole New Mind
wisdom
Wordle
workforce
World Read Aloud Day
Young People