Saturday, February 20, 2016

Embarrassed: Teachers, Can We Talk About This?

Photo Credit: wayneybee via Compfight cc

I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed to be in a profession where adults working with kids every day are negative, lazy, sarcastic, argumentative, etc. and get away with this type of behavior. I’m embarrassed when my veteran colleagues, who were once really great teachers, become cynical, disengaged, resentful and full of excuses. I’m embarrassed that in our profession there are those who complain about opportunities to improve their practice and take no initiative to seek out professional development on their own. I’m embarrassed by adults who raise their voice to degrade other colleagues. I’m embarrassed that there are bullies who intimidate other faculty and staff members and usually get what they want which reinforces their behavior. I’m embarrassed because these things happen to varying degrees in the subcultures of a school away from the administrator(s). But mostly, I’m embarrassed because I have not done enough to change these lousy attitudes and behaviors. I’ve tolerated it. I’ve avoided conflict. I’ve retreated to the safety of my own classroom. I’ve even taken on more duties just to shut up the complainers. I’ve “walked on eggshells” and done anything to have peace, and civility. What I’ve failed at is holding my colleagues responsible for their speech, attitudes, and actions.

I know that I haven’t done enough to support my school administration in encouraging the behaviors that a positive school culture/climate need. I’ve helped the school by volunteering for a lot of extracurricular activities, but what I’ve actually done is enabled those lazy teachers to be lazier. By trying to show some understanding, I’ve inadvertently encouraged some slackers to use even more excuses for not pulling their weight. By kowtowing to keep peace in the school, I’ve given even more power to bullies, cliques, and those who refuse to cooperate and collaborate. By remaining silent with the majority, my conscience has nagged at me. Have you fallen into the same traps? More importantly, what can we do about it? Where is the balance between doing your part to move a school forward and enabling bad behavior?

A building administrator simply cannot lead a school by him/herself. It takes every teacher being a leader in some capacity for a school to run smoothly. I choose to believe that most teachers are hard working, caring adults that have a passion for working with kids. But the bad behaving teachers often have a disproportionate amount of power and attention. They sap the energy from the school and administrators. Valuable time that could be used for planning and creating innovative experiences for our kids is used to put out fires and manage relationships between warring teachers and teams.

Imagine how our schools would change if EVERY teacher had the mindset that he/she was a leader? Would these leaders tolerate the bad behavior of adults who are dragging others down and most assuredly are also not a good influence on our kids? As teachers and leaders, we have a moral imperative to ensure that students can learn in a safe, positive environment. It’s time to lead up and hold our colleagues responsible. It’s time to break the silence, to expect our building administrators to lead alone, and to do our part in building a positive community of learners. We cannot have effective PLCs with grumps and dumps using their negativity to drag down everyone else. As teacher leaders, we need to learn effective skills to change the bad behavior in our schools. We can’t afford to waste any more time. Our kids depend on us, our administrators need our help and building a positive school climate benefits everyone.

There are two books that I highly recommend. The first is Shifting the Monkey by Todd Whitaker, a person who I admire and learn from daily. It’s a must read book. The second book is Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior by Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan, and Switzler, which teaches skills for confronting tough issues with colleagues. Both books explain the WHY and the HOW. The risks and consequences for breaking the silence of the majority are lessened by learning skills for dealing with bad behavior. 
I have a few suggestions for teacher leaders (and I’m referring to all teachers) willing to step up and extend their leadership influence beyond their classrooms. 

SHARE the POSITIVE happenings in your school. If you're reading this blog, you're already using social media. Help your administrative leader(s) to brand the school and get the message out to the community. Use #CelebrateMonday and #EdBeat to trend the positive.

Find ways to celebrate your peers. Notes, treats, sticky notes, emails, tweets, etc. acknowledge the practices that your school wants to model for your students. Thank people privately and publicly.

Work on yourself first. Hold yourself accountable for high expectations. Don't get hooked in by negative people.

Read, learn and develop the skills that will help you as a teacher leader. Learn to ignore. After a chronic complainer starts listing their woes, wish them a good day and move on. Don't engage them by showing sympathy, arguing, volunteering to take on some of their work, etc. 

Treat everyone (bad teachers included) as if they were good. Read Shifting the Monkey for a complete explanation of why and how.

Leading a school is a difficult job which is why so few are willing to take on the challenge. I’m grateful to know some of the most amazing educational leaders in the country. Voxer has helped me to connect on a deeper level. I know and feel their passion for education and working with kids. I’m embarrassed that their incredible talent and energy is sapped by bad teachers. I certainly pledge to play a bigger part in school leadership. We all can. Teachers, with a leadership mindset, can make a huge impact on building a positive school culture and climate.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


H Humility: "Being humble means recognizing that we are not on earth to see how important we can become, but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others." Gordon B. Hinkley

E Empathy:  "Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place." Daniel H. Pink

A Authenticity:  "What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful." Brene' Brown

R Respect: "re" Latin prefix for "again and again" "spect" means "see" You respect someone or gain respect from others according to what is seen over and over again. 

T Team:  "If you really want to be a successful leader, you must develop other leaders around you. You must establish a team of leaders!" John C. Maxwell