Sunday, June 25, 2017

Leadership In The Schools

The end of school is crazy. At my school we notify people of course failures and there are a lot of them. There are four different notifications to send. It’s redundant, inefficient, and maddening. This year, because of staff turnover, no one in charge knew the system and it was a bigger mess than usual. I wrote a short note to the team suggesting changes.
For years I’ve avoided making suggestions at school. They aren’t greeted well. Ideas must come from the top down and definitely not from me. My admins know me as a pain in the ass. One, as we graded Regents exams, suggested I shut up by asking "do you ever stop talking?" I stopped talking then. Message received.
The end-of-the-year frenzy had me thinking how to make things better. I wrote my note, revised to soften and shorten it, then sent it to the team. The administrator who shushed me wrote back: "though you may have some good ideas, there are better ways to communicate them."
I'm studying systems. Rather than goal-setting, I create systems to facilitate progress in interesting directions. I write three pages each morning as part of one system and am eliminating sugar from my diet as part of another. Small acts have big effects on systems.
My school is a system. My note was meant to inspire action and build to real change. Instead, my administrator’s fifteen-word email reminded me to shut up and leave decisions to those in charge. That admin retires in December. Until then, I’ll shut up. Message received again.
I’ve created a system of withdrawal from school, keeping my head down, going unnoticed. I teach writing and reading while working to become a successful writer. School is a job and a check. I serve students in spite of the school and with the door closed. I follow school policy so admins won’t notice me. At meetings I write or think of other things while looking attentive. Administrative goal-setting and initiatives are easily dismissed or jumped through.
But every so often, I see a problem and imagine a solution. The desire to engage comes over me and I go with it. When I'm told to shut up, I’m reminded the school system is not mine and I have my own things to do.

My administrator did me a favor reminding me of this. Whether she did the organization a favor or not is none of my business. My business is earning a paycheck doing what I can to help kids learn while going unnoticed by those in charge. I’ll shut up and keep writing.