Who is in charge here?

Since no one from my employer reads this, I can talk about an incident that happened at my school without concern that I’ll get in trouble. So….last week was parent teacher conferences. It’s a long story, but this year because of some weird circumstances P/T conferences were from 1-8 p.m. on Thursday and until 1 p.m. on Friday. For the past many years, they would be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday was a day off for everyone. The specials teachers leave at 3:15.

Last year, the teachers voted to have conference over the two days this way instead of losing a day off over Winter or Spring break. This year, there was a lot of whining. “Couldn’t we shorten the time we talk to each parent?”, “Couldn’t let the kids off the whole day of Thursday to get the conferences over with?”, blah, blah, blah. The Principal’s position was, “You decided on this last year. I think this was a dumb solution, but this is what you came up, so you have to live with it…and no….these people pay thousands of dollars every year for us to educate their children, 10 minutes for a conference is the least you can do!” Period.

I loved that! No time for discussion and problem solving. Just “Here…this it….now shut up about it.”

Then to really aggravate the complainers, she told the Gym, Music, Art, Library, and Technology teacher that since no parent ever comes in to see them, they should just work until 8:00 (really long planning time) on Thursday and stay home on Friday. Earlier in the week, one of the teachers was in the lounge with a room full of teachers (including Music and Art) ranting about how it really made her mad (using much stronger language) that the Fine Arts teachers get Friday off and she has to come in and meet with parents. (Little does she know that the principal came in to the art room Thursday evening around 6:00 p.m., where we were all hanging out having a few laughs, put her finger over her lips and gave us the “shoo…shoo” sign. This meant we got out of two more hours of work.)

Ok, so how many leadership/relationship rules does she break? In class, we learned about about the 12 cultural norms, one of which is involvement in decision making, another is which is trust and confidence. There are some decisions that not everyone needs to be involved in. Or when decisions are made as a group, someone is going to left unhappy. For example, last year the old principal made it possible for all of us to be involved in how we’d solve a timing issue with P/T conferences. Everyone (except the new principal) had their chance to voice their opinion and the consensus was what we did this week. Even though they were involved in the decision making process, they still were unhappy. And that trust and confidence thing? Even though she knows at least one teacher is p…….d off at her, she lets the fine arts teachers leave even earlier!

Here’s another example of decisions that should not be left up to the group. In class, (this class) the students connect what we are learning in leadership and project to position of leader to the instructor, unfairly in my opinion. Here’s my view: We are all taking a graduate level course from an accredited college. We made the decision to make the commitment, made out the checks, and came to class. I don’t think I should have any say so in the number and lengths of assignments. I do not believe students should be consulted on the syllabus of the class. In the case of being an adult taking a graduate level course, it seems like one should expect there to be a certain level of rigor. We don’t consult our students on how much work they should do. We are professionals and we know what we’re doing. We assign the only what is necessary to practice a skill and assess what is learned. Some teachers do a better job than others. It takes experience to figure out the balance. In graduate school, the instructors are professionals and the students are the “consumers”. We’re paying a fortune for these classes. We have to trust the college knows what they are doing. If they work load seems like too much, then maybe this isn’t a good time in one’s life to make the commitment to take classes. (Ok, so now who is sounding a little blunt.) I appreciate how the instructor listen to the discussion, and was able to accommodate the requests of the students. I know most teachers, at all levels, have been known to reschedule a test or back down on a project because the students complained about the load with all the classes they are taking. It’s not about torture, after all.

Anyway, back to my principal. I like the way she problem solves. She faced with a number of very vocal “whiners”. She has to be tough. She has high expectations (norm #3) and is trying to bring the rest of the group along by offering support and expressing her appreciation. She doesn’t however, let the whining impact her every move. Sometimes she makes decisions without consulting the masses, just because she can. If she tries to make everyone happy, she’ll drive herself nuts and lose focus on what is important.

Upon reflecting on the 12 cultural norms, I think people have to earn the right to be involved in decision making. If one shows that they really have the best interest of the whole organization in mind by their actions and their behavior, they show that they are a contributing member. Therefore everyone would benefit by them being involved in decision making. On the other hand, by resisting experimentation and innovation, lacking collegiality (evidenced by the teacher’s lounge rant, staff meeting whine), those few people need a little more direct approach. A leader needs to have to wisdom to know the difference.

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