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The thing we refuse to look at

I wasn’t planning to write about this

I wasn’t planning on writing about this topic.  I had a different series planned but I’m trying in my own life and work to be really honest, to speak to what I see, and to be vulnerable.

I observed some bad teaching recently.

Frustratingly bad teaching.

But nothing you all haven’t seen, nothing your own children haven’t probably experienced in their school, nothing that would make the evening news.  

Nonetheless, I felt riled up about it.

What I realized was that the heart of my frustration was actually with the culture I see and I have participated in around bad teaching.

My most raw and blunt appraisal is that we have an educational leadership culture of lying and withholding.

If you’re all triggered and issued up right now, hang in there.  

That's a leadership skill we all need.  Don’t tap out at the first hint of aggravation.  

Hang in there with me and let’s see if we can unpack this in some way that might help us move forward and maybe, just maybe, have less bad teaching occur.

I don’t know the teachers I observed deeply or well so my default assumption is that they can be taught how to teach well.

I assume capability.

But so much of what I've observed and done myself is “leadership work” around trying to figure out how to soften and soothe when communicating a clearly observable issue.

We have to stop lying, stop withholding, and cultivate a willingness to talk to each other with candor that doesn't collapse respect or care.

I’m familiar with the fears around what would happen if we just said the real thing. Fears of being grieved or fired or disliked by everyone.

These fears are important but they aren’t the most important thing.

Our vision for what we are building and creating on behalf of kids should be the most important.

We can change the culture of our schools and teams and departments one honest conversation at a time.  We can use adaptive tools like seeing each other as capable to build truly better schools.  The biggest misconception about adaptive work is that it’s all softy- la-la stuff and totally disconnected from impact.

That is utterly wrong.

Adaptive work is learning how to communicate, how to stay in connection even when we are upset or disagree, it’s getting really crystal clear on our values and vision so that we can keep navigating in the hardest and strangest of times.

So there are reasons to lie and withhold and to “love sandwich” feedback to fully grown adults.  

But all of that is hurting kids, and it’s hurting us.


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