It is easy to talk about different perspectives, but it is much more difficult to actually view a situation from someone else’s perspective.
Imagine your classroom with a broken pole. It is a metal hollow casing for drop down wires and is haphazardly leaning to one side. It is not holding the ceiling up, it is not going to cause the whole building to fall apart if it breaks, but it is causing you a lot of stress. As much as you may warn your students to “Stop walking past that pole! It is going to fall over and hurt you or the jagged bottom may cut you!” your lovely students just do not quite seem to grasp the severity of the situation.
And apparently, neither does the administrator.
Yes, the administration team is busy scheduling standardized test, dealing with discipline, talking to the parents that are upset their child got a B on a test, making sure there is coverage during all the passing periods, attending PLCs, completing walk throughs and formal evaluations, 504s, IEPs, LPACs… I am sure I am missing a ton of more things, but I think you get the picture.
Quite frankly, to you, none of that matters until your pole is fixed!
You have just gotten chewed out by a parent about their child getting detention for skipping class, your supervisor is asking when the new master schedule is going to be complete, its 2 P.M. and your soup is cold and untouched, and you just got five more discipline referrals.
In walks a teacher. As she starts talking you realize you can now add some broken pole in a classroom that needs to get fixed to your to do list. You mentally file that away in the low priority category and move on. You go ahead and start checking your emails while nodding your head in perfect increments to show the teacher you are listening while multi-tasking. Finally, you just have to cut the teacher off. You ask can this wait? You have important things to attend to first, but you will get around to it as soon as possible. You tell her to check back next week if it is not fixed by then.
As your office door closes you may or may not realize that a relationship has just been ruined. The work that teacher does every day has just been diminished to nothing. Being dismissive or condescending will only lead to a negative culture and every aspiring leader knows that culture can make or break a school.
A Great Leader’s Response
Some advise I was given when I started down my path towards becoming an educational leader was to:
Treat every problem like it is the biggest problem ever.
My initial thought was this is a terrible idea! Would that not escalate a simple issue into something huge?
But imagine that same scenario about the broken pole. Only this time the administrator stops what he is doing. He turns away from the computer and gives you his full attention. He listens to your concerns and responds by saying he is sorry that there is an issue with equipment in your classroom. That he will put a work order in right away to get it addressed and ask if there is anything in the mean time that he can do to help make your classroom a safe environment for you and your students? Not only did the administrator say all of this, but he followed through. He checked in the next day to see that it had been taken care of and to ask if there was anything else you may need.
Wow. That is a simple conversation, and yet that would make all of the difference in the world. Hearing a teachers concerns are valid and that they will be addressed in a timely manner is all a teacher needs. There is renewed faith in your leadership and ability see the teacher’s perspective and create a positive culture for the school.
As the administrator, you may know that a pole used to encase drop down wires is not load bearing and really does not effect the room. It probably would be very low on your priority list, but that does not matter to you. Being able to see the perspective of your staff and to empathize with their needs will separate you from the good leaders and define yourself as a great leader. Treating that simple problem as the biggest problem of the day has made your staff feel validated, important, and worth your time.