Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Strategies for Success: Know When to “Get Out the Kitchen”

There is not a single part of a school that I do not enjoy spending time.  It could be just about anywhere.  Libraries, classrooms, lecture halls, gyms, hallways, dining hall – anywhere I go, I like to get a sense of the “energy” of a school in session.  One of my favorite places to go is the faculty workroom (lounge).  Over the course of many years and more than a few different schools, this “sacred” place on campus has been both a source of inspiration and professional discourse as well as a caldron of negativity and office politics.  The key to avoiding the pitfalls of negativity, I offer this strategy for success: 

Know when to “get out of the kitchen.” 

I am fortunate that my current school promotes a healthy professional environment.  This is in no small part due to the example and leadership provided by the Headmaster.  On the other hand, I know of other schools in which it appears a perpetual culture of insecurity and mistrust exists.  These are not healthy places, and from my observations, one of the most volatile places on campus being the faculty lounge.

Therefore, knowing when to remove oneself from these situations is important in maintaining and promoting a counter-cultural atmosphere and a professional demeanor – especially in schools that are struggling to maintain a healthy professional culture.

So, how can an unhealthy environment begin the process of healing?  Building a community of honesty and trust can be difficult.  It begins with a shared commitment to identifying how such improvements can be made and what each person’s role is in making the changes a reality. 

It is possible, but like my high school football coach used to say, “A fish always stinks from the head.”  Leaders who notice, even slightly, a shift in the atmosphere in the “hot spots” should take a moment to reflect on their example and remember the value of human resource leadership and set a tone that makes your school’s “kitchen” the positive and engaging place that supports student achievement and a professional culture.

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