Don’t raise your virtual hand, but can you relate?

Hey Advocates!

It’s your girl!! Back on the digital mic. I just want to say this topic was hard for me to write about. Not because I don’t have a lot to say. You all know by now, I have a lot to say. However, I was so one with it, so I was in my own “Amen corner” and side-eyeing (with love) a few people at the same time. Listen. Don’t judge me, because by the time you finish reading this piece, you’ll be side-eyeing (with love) some people, too. I am going to say something possibly controversial and that definitely may not be the popular opinion. However, I live on the edge, so here we go: A struggling administrator or administration team holds power in title only. A strong indicator of a struggling administration is when one person or a group of people hold influential power and voice in the choices being offered and the decisions being made. These choices and decisions impact all students but they were designed to support and to be good for a select few. Though administration doesn’t support these decisions, administration also doesn’t advocate for the good of the learning community. They are silent and they “go along to get along”. Bruh. Why do the loudest voices get the most silent and salient support? What in the silent auction is going on here?

Don’t raise your virtual hand, but can you relate? 

For a quick moment, take some time and reflect on some of the inequities that have occurred, on your site, surrounding discipline, student leadership, attendance, clubs, athletics, and academics. Who benefited? Who suffered? What part did your administration play? Can I just say that I don’t think this is what Elsa meant when she sang “Let it go”. We can’t just let go of important issues and decisions, because we fear conflict with our peers. If we, as leaders, are afraid to have courageous conversations with each other, who in the world will have them? Where will this revolution in education come from, if we can’t stand on the very business of ensuring a learning environment that allows access and opportunities for all students?

Now, I like to believe that I’m an optimist. I went to school for school counseling, because I know that school counselors are the heart of the schools. If you have a school counselor, and you don’t really know the role of a school counselor (please don’t say “guidance”), you should have a conversation with your school counselor. Because I know how essential we are and because I know that I didn’t just pay all that money, for my degree, to change schedules, I refuse to believe that an administrator completed a degree program and interviewed to lead a school and received the job by a panel of interviewers and was voted in by their governing board only to not do what they promised in the interview. Who has that type of time and money to throw away? I believe that a majority of school leaders go in with capes of good intentions and they quickly run into their kryptonite - their micro- and macro environments. For many reasons, ranging from the political climate of the community they serve to lack of district office support, they become afraid to rock the boat and to lead fearlessly. And the boat must be rocked, at times.

You may be asking, “How do we stir the water without sinking the ship?”. 

YAY! I’m glad you’re on board. Here are some fresh strategies to help you step up your “Face the Conflict” game.

  • Flip the script. Treat conflict like a brainstorming session. Invite a good representation of people to the table - teachers, students, parents - so that diverse perspectives can be voiced and game-changing solutions, for the good of all, can be born. Listen to others. Real change happens when others are heard. 
  • Break the ice. Tense and awkward is not where it’s at. Ain't nobody gonna speak up if they're not trusting the environment. Adults swear we hate team-building activities, until they happen. Make your “influencers” team-building captains, to lessen the grumblings. Once you've got everyone loosened up, they'll be more likely to speak their minds.
  • Keep it real. People respect authenticity. If your dream career is starting and nurturing drama, go ahead and sugarcoat things and sweep issues under the rug. That doesn’t sound enticing, does it? I hope you said “no”. Let your team know that conflict is natural and a part of the growing process. Give reassurance that no one decision can be made without some understanding of multiple perspectives. If you are a “my way or the highway” type of person or if you allow a group of people to lead departments that way, at your site, you will have a lot of people choosing the highway. Leaders, I don’t know if you know this, but the education industry has lots of options. If you have someone sticking it out with you, appreciate those people and tell them that you do. They choose your leadership and your campus every single day. Don’t take that for granted.  
  • Lead by example. If you shake things up in the macro, you may have others willing to do the same in the micro. We have to move away from the “It’s always been done this way” thinking. I hope I’m not the only one who is noticing this, but the world of learning is evolving every day. A global pandemic opened us up to the world of virtual meetings and a new way of meeting the needs of students. The world became big and small at the same time. Challenging the status quo allows leaders to embrace conflict with confidence. 
  • Celebrate wins. Ain’t no party like a conflict party because a conflict party don’t stop. I mean…conflict is healthy. We grow with challenges. Let’s straighten something out. I’m not talking about creating a hostile or toxic work environment. We are not arguing for the sake of arguing. If an idea is good, give credit and implement the idea. If an idea could use a bit more discussion, have the courageous conversation. 

Fear of conflict is a serious barrier to educational progress. Change isn’t easy, but it's worth it for the students, and they are the primary beneficiaries of educational considerations and decisions. Preserving interpersonal relationships and avoiding confrontation can create a culture of complacency and resistance to change. 

My call-to-action this week is simply that school leaders embrace conflict as an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with all staff members, foster collaboration beyond professional learning communities, and drive positive change for transformative impact. Will you accept the challenge?

Written By: Sholanda Smith, Content Creator Leading Equity Center


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