Friday, November 18, 2016

Fixing Everything is Impossible

It's the Friday night on the cusp of 9 days of Thanksgiving vacation.

As my wife and I start a new show on Netflix (she nixed Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage -- we compromised on the Blacklist), I begin to fiddle through my daily emails that I haven't had a chance yet to answer.

As a site principal, I am constantly communicating with various teachers via email, Google chat, and text threads throughout the day. I think my staff knows that they can contact me and receive a high level of responsiveness, no matter the time of day or holiday break. It's something I actually enjoy: checking in with our teaching staff and seeing what I can do to help. Their insight has actually provided some of the more reflective moments of my educational practice.

Tonight, in one of my dialogues with a staff member, my blog was brought up in the conversation. We were kidding around, discussing various topics for future blog entries. They had just emailed some kind words my way and I responded with: "thanks for the nice words. I just wish I could fix everything."

In their response, they suggested the following shift of perspective in my journey as a middle school principal: "Fixing everything is impossible, my journey to find balance in middle school."

Wow. I was floored.

With just a few words, I had my inspiration for tonight's blog topic: Fixing everything is impossible.

And just for the record, this teacher, as usual, is absolutely correct.

We administrators cannot fix everything.

As I shared with this staff member, I actually don't want to fix everything. After all, I can't change how unhappy some students, teachers, or parents are with the hard work we all put into making Union Middle the amazing place it has become. That's not on my to-do list. Some people are just unhappy people.  

However, even if i can't fix everything, I do want to fix the important things. Specifically, I want our students to have the best school experience possible. I want for our students what I want for my own children: to have a safe, learning environment with the constant, relentless support of a teaching staff who work tirelessly to best support our kids each and every day.

I shared these thoughts with this staff member.

A bit brief, they responded: what are the important things you think need fixing?

Wow. Another good question.

Here's the thing about Union Middle School: we have fantastic kids who are in classrooms with top notch educators and supported by an amazing parent community. It is an amazing place to spend our days. Easily the best place I've ever worked.

So what are the important things that I, as the site principal, think need fixing?

In typical Friday night fashion, I responded with a rather lengthy reply.

Here are some of my main points from the email correspondence:

-I would like to fix how members of our school community interact with one another.

-I expect our adults to always lead with kindness and understanding in all scenarios, even if it is difficult.

-I hope to inspire our staff members to give our students extra opportunities to demonstrate their learning.

-I'd like to expect our students to be a bit more inclusive (even though I am constantly impressed with how kind and considerate they are -- there is always room for improvement here).

-I'd like to have clear agreements on how we, as a school staff, agree to work together with our administrative team to support kids, each other, parents, and the school community in general. I don't mind if students, teachers, parents, or whomever are upset with a decision we administrators have made. I don't expect that everyone agrees with the millions of decisions we administrators have to make each and every day. However, some acknowledgement that our administrative team is extremely (and intentionally) fair and thoughtful when it comes to supporting our students, staff, and communities would be appreciated at times. I'm ok if you want to disagree with the decision; just don't disagree with the love and thoughtful care we put into making it.

When we do make a decision, the focal point is quite simple: It's all about what's best for kids.

Always.

Without question.

Some may disagree with the decision we've made on a random topic but when you're putting kids first, I don't hesitate to defend my position. We administrators may make mistakes, but we always put kids and our school first. Every single day.

We work hard to build a school where students are encouraged to develop their learning, teachers want to come to work, and where parents are proud to send their kids.

So no... I can't fix everything... but I think it is my job as a site principal (and the job of every member of our school community) to help fix the most important things: how can we do our best for the kids.

In working together to best support our students and each other, I believe that we can find a certain level of balance in middle school.

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