When we are planning and creating systems and structures together I want to be sure that I involve everyone, that I consider all angles, and that I make the most informed decision based on what is best for the students, rather than trying to “make people happy.” If you are a pleaser, like I am, you know the internal struggle is real as far as that is concerned. Of course, while being inclusive, I want to be decisive and efficient. I want everyone to feel like his or her voice is heard, but bottom line–the best interests of our students are put first.
Believe me, this is a tricky process. Lots of times this planning takes place in the spring. I’ve heard some administrators call that time the “mean season.” All the adults are stressed and tired just coming out of winter, on edge because end-of-the-year testing is coming up, and then we start talking about staffing, schedules, and CHANGE. SHEEWW..Emotions are high, people become anxious, territorial, in self preservation mode, and can even lash out at others.
Right now, I am in the midst of making plans for when an additional 60 plus students enter the building in another week. Now that I am going through the planning process for the FOURTH time this year, I have gained a couple of take-aways that will continue to guide my work through this process and so the NEXT TIME I make a new master schedule, class lists, and the like, I will be ready.
- Assume positive intent in others. When we work on coordinating schedules or class lists, there is nothing to be gained by assuming a colleague is driven by selfish motivations. Even if the person’s past behavior would indicate that this person might be motivated by adult rather than student concerns, if I put myself in a positive or even neutral mindset regarding their decisions, my questioning will be clarifying and solution-focused in nature rather than accusatory. If I keep the focus on how the decision or suggestion helps or hurts children, I will better understand everyone’s perspectives, what they want or need, and help to build trust within the group.
These question starters may be helpful: How did you decide…? Why do you think this is the case? What impact do you think…”
- Remember people can not process and problem solve if they are caught off guard and/or fearful. If I propose something new or different I need to remember that just the simple act of receiving information about an impending change will trigger some people. If they immediately come back with a comment, question, or rebuttal, it’s not necessarily because they oppose the change. I need to not get defensive. I need use active listening and hold space for people until they are able to express their emotions.
When making decisions that alter what each person’s daily work life will look like, I have learned that the process is as important as the product. I can’t control how many co-vid cases we have or how people will react to each situation, but I can control the process. By being intentional, I hope to supporting my mission–
To use my positivity and enthusiasm to support a collaborative environment of continuous growth and improvement where students want to learn and staff want to teach.