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“Yeah……I did it. I goofed. I pulled a Dufus move. No, it’s not the first time (that number wouldn’t fit in this post) but it was a mistake I should have known not to make. Granted, it was made out of zeal and innocence, but mostly it was made because I focused on my goals and not the goals of my teachers.”
So writes Tom Whitford, a principal here in Wisconsin I greatly admire, in his post “Learning With Your Mistakes” a must read post if you haven’t already. Tom’s words have stuck with me. It is not often that we teachers get to look into the mind of an administrator when they make a mistake. It is not often that a private screw up becomes public knowledge because let’s face it, whether we are teachers or principals, there is some sort of expectation of perfection. That we always know what we are doing, that everything we do is a good thing.
For years, I have blogged about the mistakes I have made and how it wasn’t until I started asking my students what they wanted to learn, how they wanted to learn, and whether I was doing a good job or not that my teaching truly changed. Sure, being told that you are boring, or that something you feel passionate about is not liked by others, is hard. But every time a child has told me their honest opinion, I have thanked them, what courage it must take for a 10 year old to tell an adult that there are better ways to teach something.
So in the spirit of Tom’s post, I wonder how many administrators keep a finger on the pulse of their building? How many principals ask their teachers how they are doing, and not just at the end of the year, but monthly or more often? How many principals create opportunities for their teachers to give them advice or to help them change something. Sure, we can think that we teachers will tell our principals if something is not working, but let’s be real. Many teachers are afraid of administration and what may happen if they do, even if they are friendly with them. Some don’t think their words will ever make a difference, while others don’t want to take more time away from a principal’s already busy day. Whatever the reason, and there can be many, I think we need to encourage more open dialogue in our schools.
I am not proposing a free for all, but rather the chance to start a conversation. That teachers be asked, “How are we doing, what should we change, or how can I be a better leader?” much like we should be asking our students. Sure, the answers may be tough to hear but taken in the right spirit, like Tom did in his school, everyone will benefit.
When we are not afraid to start hard conversations, we can grow, whether in our classrooms or in our schools. When we can create environments where teachers trust that they can speak to their administrators even about tough subjects, then we can grow. We work so hard to create communities of open dialogue in our classrooms, why not extend it to the rest of the school? We are all human, no one is perfect, and it is time we start talking about it more. Not just at the end of the year or the beginning, but throughout, as we all create the type of school we would want our own children to be in.
I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” can be pre-bought now from Powerful Learning Press. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.