in schools lately and I am starting to wonder if there is another fear that is causing school success to be squelched. Before we can encourage students to embrace failure and not be afraid to take risks and then learn from them, don't we need to address the fear that exists amongst our teachers? I have worked in a variety of districts, and in each one I have seen the fear of conflict hold people back from addressing concerns that will affect them in a variety of ways. We need to create teams that can trust each other and that can debate an idea, I mean really beat up an idea, project, concept or concern without personalizing the process. Why is it we fear debate? Are we so unprofessional that we cannot face criticism? Especially when the criticism is over an idea, a change, or a procedure that if looked at with scrutiny may be improved for the benefit of all. Instead, we tend to cower in our insecurity, our fear of conflict with a colleague or maybe it's the fear of the power of the crowd. Will all of our peers look at us as the trouble maker, the whiner or just self centered.
I am searching for the naysayer or antagonist amongst my staff. While I am not looking to battle over every decision we need to make, in order to make sound decisions about some of the changes I believe we need to make, we need to have some cognitive dissidence to ensure we are looking at all perspectives and truly examining these ideas so that they will work and be embraced as good ideas. My friend, George Couros wrote an intriguing piece on the Antagonist a while back and I would like to see my staff embrace the concept.
So as I met with the with my Leadership Team they brought up an interesting point, that I hadn't really considered. Is it possible the fear of conflict doesn't tend to be directed toward administration, but instead it tends to come from each other. They said that we (the staff) go around and put targets on each others backs. But after reflecting for a while, I had to admit, I recall that feeling as well. I remember being a teacher and being more worried about what my co-workers thought of me than my principal. Again, this is culture issue that we must overcome and that I will put my efforts toward conquering. We need to be able to examine ourselves, our practices and our beliefs, if we are to put student learning and their social/emotional development at the top of our priority list. While I have read a lot about teamwork, leadership and motivating people, I am still open for ideas on creating this positive culture that is fearless in conflict, filled with trust and focused on improving everything we do. I shared with them today the video below, because I think we do have leaders amongst us, and that my staff members do make "lollipop moments" every day. Do you see this culture in your schools? Have you battled this fear with your employees or peers? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Wish I could give you a lollipop like I did with my staff.