Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Ball Over the Fence

Without publicly revealing too much, there were some administrative decisions made in the last few months that came as surprises to the teachers. That’s my first rule of a decision poorly made— that the people who are stakeholders in the decision, are affected directly and indirectly by it, are surprised. It’s a sure sign that some necessary steps were missed and the result is that it widens the “us” and “them” gap between teachers and admin rather than narrows it back to where it belongs as a “we.” Teachers don’t feel like they were trusted to be in on the necessary conversations and a lot of backpedaling is needed to repair the damage. But even in a school that boasts about teaching children to speak out in the name of fairness and social justice, our staff that complains at the water cooler gets a bit on the silent side at the meetings. 

So I requested a private meeting with admin to speak out on behalf of restoring more teacher voice in the things that most directly affect us, particularly when it enters the sacred ground of a teacher’s space, schedule and own way of teaching. I wasn’t quite as articulate as I hoped to be, but the good news was that I managed to maintain a calm detachment that treated the issues as philosophical vision without the he said/she said blame or shame tone and that felt good.

The next day at the elementary meeting, our last chance to speak together before summer, I was surprised that some elephants were still standing in the room while there was a long discussion about the sharing of balls at recess. I noticed comments like:

• Whose ball is it?

• When and with whom should it be shared?

• When a ball gets kicked over a fence or popped, who is responsible to retrieve it? Who is accountable? 

• Why should we get new balls if we’re not even taking care of what we have?

And it struck me—that’s exactly what we need to talk about!! One of the teachers felt her program had been mindlessly and sadly diminished by a decision she had no voice in, the same feeling as someone taking your ball during a game and kicking it over the fence and walking away. So I tried to use that window to bring out into the discussion all the things that weren’t being said about some things that had gone down recently. I parroted the above excerpts from their ball discussion back to them and asked them to imagine that the ball was our shared investment in creating the school of our vision. 

It had the potential of being a brilliant way into the needed conversation. Truth be told, it didn’t quite work, but maybe people just needed to see it in print and have more time to mull it over. 

So here it is. 

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