Schools can be stressful places, they can lead to tension and conflict between staff members that can negatively impact on the culture of the school and the morale of those committed to supporting its students. High expectations are placed upon us and we also have high expectations of ourselves. Most of us are committed to education as a career, a vocation, not merely a job; we are passionate about it and making a positive difference to the lives of the students in our care.
Now and again things go wrong, which in turn may lead to extra work, finger pointing in terms of blame and possible embarrassment if reputations are harmed. In worst case scenarios irreparable damage may become of what were once collaborative relationships between teachers and teams. More importantly, the quality of what goes on in the school suffers and, in the worst cases, students get caught in the middle and are adversely affected.
The problem is that we see the worst in things all too easily , despite most actions in schools stemming from good intentions. We have all been there, making a decision and taking action with well meaning but we fail to fully see the consequences of that decision / action. Yes, we have done things that may have caused stress for others that were perhaps not fully thought through, were misguided, and at times lacked the necessary experience. In fact, many of us reflect on some of our decisions, asking ourselves, “did I really do that?” At no point, however, did we ever intend to make life more difficult for our colleagues. Having spent 20 years working in schools, I can barely recall a time where a teacher deliberately set out to hurt a colleague, in any way, shape or form. Yet, at times, we react so quickly and sensitively to situations, it is like our colleague(s) just did that.
In thriving and healthy school cultures, leaders place significant emphasis on ensuring that week seek to understand our actions and those of each other when things go wrong. We try to assume good intentions through a willingness to be reflective, supportive and learn from our mistakes. We try to model the behaviour that we expect to see in our teachers and our students and, most importantly, see mistakes as opportunities for learning rather than apportioning blame.
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