So. The start of this school year.
It’s going to be hard. It is hard. It’s borderline unworkable.
I am friends with many administrators. Superintendents, directors, principals. I used to be an administrator. I used to be a teacher. I’m a parent to kids in school. I’m a husband to a kickass English teacher. I work for an edtech company.
Which is to say, I’m seeing and hearing it from every side. And one, massive truth has emerged.
No one will be happy.
Everyone is armchair quarterbacking this school start-up. And they’re sitting in their chair with a boatload of biases, experiences, and, frankly, any lack of humility.
No one knows how this will play out.
Anyway. The narratives I mostly see are either from teachers or from parents (with a smattering of stories coming from kids). What I don’t see much is the narrative from administrators. Which I understand. They have an intensely political job.
(But again, no one will be happy.)
And they’re trying to triage a situation that results in the fewest casualties.
I want to make a few suggestions for those of us second-guessing everything from administrators (with our very limited view of the moving parts).
1. Show Grace. Please
Extend kindness, courtesy, and humility to your principals, administrators, and superintendents.
2. Assume good intent
Every administrator I know has a core truth: They care about people. Not just students, but their entire village of learners. They want what’s best.
Yes, good intentions don’t necessarily translate into good outcomes. But it still matters when looking at the individual.
3. Know they’re working their asses off
Hours and hours. Days and days. Weekend after weekend.
4. Understand they’re making personal sacrifices
See point three. People are finite. The hours in a week are finite. Giving time to work means taking time away from family, relationships, parenting, personal development, and friendships.
Things in life that really matter.
5. Recognize cognitive and skill limits
Administrators, like every group, come with a wide variety of cognitive abilities and skills.
Sometimes they hit the wall on what they’re able to accomplish. They literally can’t do more.
It is what it is. And it’s not wrong. When they hit the wall, see points one and two.
6. Give words of encouragement
Even if you’re doubting what the administrator is doing. Find an area of truth that you can embrace, and then offer it back to the administrator with encouragement and grace. These words are gold to administrators.
For many an administrator, their daily inbox is one long list of complaints. Words of encouragement help balance the scale.
7. Understand everyone has a boss
In school districts, that boss is eventually the school board.
And school boards come in every shape, size, belief, biases, values, and abilities.
Moreover, their understanding of how the world works, their “common sense” base if you will, is, like everyone else, being turned upside down in this Covid-19 world.
Chaos doesn’t necessarily bring out the best decision making.
Here, too, is where you can give words of encouragement. Let board members know you sympathize with their challenges. Tell them the words of support you’re giving to administrators. Board members need to hear words of grace as well.
There Are More
And this list could go on for a while. I mostly try and ground myself in a profound sense of gratitude for administrators working through the trenches right now. I am amazed at their fortitude.
My hope is that we all extend (or continue to extend) grace during this epic change in the world.