As in any profession, educators should be able to look back and think, “Why did I do that?” If you aren’t able to do that, there might not have been much growth.
Early in my career, I remember walking into a colleague’s classroom first thing in the morning and noticing that her students were eating and had water on their desks. I was seriously dismayed because the school rule was, “There is to be no food or drink in the classroom,” and I was not one to not follow the rules. When I shared with her how her ignoring the rules made us all look bad, she shared with me, “It is really hard for the kids to learn when they are hungry.” I would love to say that I got it then, but I didn’t. I was more worried about following the rule than doing what was right by my students because, in all honesty, I thought the rule WAS doing right by my students. I feel differently now.
This all came back to me as I was discussing with a teacher how they were doing something subversive that was in contradiction with the school rules but it was helping their kids. My stance is that the principle we should follow as educators is the following:
“Do what you can to support the growth and success of your students.”
When the rule trumps common sense, the rule is stupid.
But I know that I have always had this need to do right by my boss. I am not the “Ask forgiveness, not permission” type because I don’t want to be in that position where I am subversive to my boss and/or my colleagues. I know a lot of teachers like this as well.
So what am I suggesting moving forward? As administrators, we have to look at our policies and “rules” in place within our school and see if they are putting our teachers in a place where we are pushing them to follow the rule over serving their students.
I love the core values of the shoe company “Zappos” and the preamble before:
At Zappos our 10 Core Values are more than just words, they’re a way of life. We know that companies with a strong culture and a higher purpose perform better in the long run. As we continue to grow, we strive to ensure that our culture remains alive and well. Check out our Oath of Employment, which we use to not only highlight our values, but commit to them both as Zappos employees and as a business.
Deliver WOW Through Service
Embrace and Drive Change
Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
Pursue Growth and Learning
Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
Do More With Less
Be Passionate and Determined
These core values give direction but there is so much flexibility in what each value looks like and how it can be applied to serve their customers.
So perhaps creating these types of “core values” for your school or organization might be something that helps guide while encouraging each individual to do what is best for the people they serve directly. Here are ten that come to my mind when thinking about education:
Do what you can to support the growth and success of your students.
Grow and learn in a way that you would expect from the students in your classroom.
Push your colleagues to grow along with you, but support, collaborate, and empower them on their path.
Over-communication is better than under-communication.
Take care of yourself so that you can better support others.
Find joy in your work.
Take the work seriously but never take yourself too seriously.
Share your passion with others so we can help students find their passion.
Find and develop strengths and talents first of your students and colleagues. Always start in the positive.
Don’t just value people but also ensure people know they are valued.
What would your core values be for your school or organization? What would they create for your culture and community and how would they put your staff in a situation where they can always do what is right by their students?
Of course, there are going to be some rules and policies that are needed but my guess is that there are often too many that limit teachers instead of empowering them.
Focusing on these types of “values” helps develop wisdom and creates cultures where educators are treated as professionals and ensure they do right by those that they serve instead of shifting their focus on what “rules” they need to follow.
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