Leadership- Hey, It Was Ok For Me

For any organization to become successful, employees must let go of thinking that is detrimental to themselves and new employees.  In education, this can be the assumption that if an experience worked for you for many years, it must be good. I call this “the it was okay for me mentality,” and it needs to stop.  Kids deserve much better.  


What follows is a list of poor advice shared with me by teachers and administrators during my career.  All of these are bad. Do not believe them when they come your way. And I guarantee that some will definitely come your way.


Don’t Smile Until Christmas:  This is a ridiculous statement that lives in schools and is often communicated by veteran staff.  Would any adult want to come to work and be scowled at for half a year? Of course not.  A smile is universal; it works anywhere on our planet.  All students and adults should be greeted every day with a smile.


I Taught It, They Didn’t Learn It:  This is an excuse that should never occur in a school.  It is the job of an educator to help students learn.  If an assessment shows students did not learn, then take the professional route and find a new way to help students understand.   


Start the Year Hard:  This is sometimes used to scare students about the year ahead, and to allow the teacher to assume a very dominant, controlling position in the class.  This is also silly! Who wants to start a course with failure?  Adults and students always do better when we build on success. Lift others up instead of tearing them down!


We All Have a Bad Class:  This is an unfair comment that lumps students together in a negative way.  Successful educators never lump students together and pass group judgment.  Often, the students who give you the hardest time need you the most.


Plan Out Each Day of the Year:  Once I was told that I should have each day planned for the entire year before the year started.  This makes zero sense.  Good planning is based on the needs of students, and each day and throughout the year they will be different.


Our Demographics Give Us Bad Scores:  This is an excuse and worse yet, a racist comment.  Great educators believe all students can learn, they do not accept the color of skin, where they live, of their families lack of money as reasons to be less than nurturing and supportive.  


I am sure you have heard some or all of these.  They may seem funny but they hurt students and have for a long time.  My list could be from the present or from 100 years ago, it is time for these beliefs and slogans to stop.  Collectively, we want to be seen as professionals. When you hear these sayings, remember each one erodes the professionalism of our field and does not support students’ growth and learning.  

Read the options that follow carefully, before choosing. You can remain silent when you hear such comments, but this choice is a slippery slope for handling situations you do not agree with. You can agree and then do the opposite. However, consider the importance of being true to yourself.  This choice will not help such a goal.  The option that I favor and have adopted is to ask the person to not say these words anymore. Make sure you explain why, so the person understands your reasoning.  This may be the most challenging way to respond, but I assure you it will make you feel better about yourself, your professionalism, and your commitment to students.

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