A Reader Writes… (Poisonous Staff – Part 1)

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In response to the post, “Poisonous Staff,” a reader writes: SC, I was sitting here reading today’s blog and it hit me like a ton of bricks. The teacher that the person is writing about could easily be any number of teachers on my campus. We have some that think they are above doing what is being asked of them by the principal (and by extension the district and the state) and spew their negativity and displeasure at will. Sadly, this is spreading throughout the school. With all of the problems our school is facing right now, we REALLY don’t need the negativity. However, all my principal gives us is … “This is what you will do.” So what I am asking is as a lead teacher, what should I do? Is it enough just to try to stay positive? Or do I need to become EXTRA positive for the sake of the students? SC Response This is a tough one. And I won’t insult you be pretending there is only one right answer in your situation. But I will start with this, as an informal leader, your effectiveness is a function of modeling, influence, expertise, passion and problem solving. As such you have to decide which of those attributes are your strength(s) in the current environment and rely heavily on that (those). If modeling is your strength, then you need to visibly work harder and smarter, and communicate that you are positive that this work will lead the campus to success, given some time. If you need to draw attention to this example, do so. Remember it was Washington that prevented a military coup, when he stepped up and addressed his former officers by fumbling with his notes as he took out his reading glasses and said, “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray, but almost blind in the service of my country.” If influence is your strength, then get out there, and have individual conversation after individual conversation. Outsell the nay-bobs. If expertise is your strength, then make sure the teachers that are struggling the most have regular and ready access to you and your expert brain. If passion is your strength, then wear it on your sleeve. Advocate for the students and win the hearts of your fellow teachers. Remember former state commissioner, Dr. Shirley Neeley. She always remained unabashedly passionate about public schools and made no apologies for embracing her self-described role of “Head Cheerleader.” If problem solving is your strength, then focus on creating quick, actionable solutions that provide noticeable bang for the buck. A string of quick victories will go a long way towards changing attitudes and opinions. Just remember that leadership always sets the tone and tempo. If formal leadership is ineffective and informal leadership doesn’t step up to fill the void, the situation on your campus will continue to decline. Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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