|Book Fairies on Campus, Magic|
Owner’s ManualRationale: A friend told me about a great article in the Wall Street Journal about a hospital administrator in Massachusetts who wrote an “Owner’s Manual” so his new staff would know how to deal with him as he moved to a new position. So, I put this together to give you an idea of what I am like.
When I reflect on spirit week and the concerns raised by teachers, I can't help but reflect on my principal's owner's manual. Item seventeen on her list reads, "I am exactly as I appear. I don’t have time for hidden agendas. I will assume you don’t either." I am as I appear. I do not have an agenda at work beyond enjoy the students and support their growth as readers and writers, .
- I am a sucker for enthusiastic, passionate, focused teachers who come to me with a need and a plan to help kids. I try to find the money for worthy projects.
- You can change my mind. If your way is better, I’m all for it. If you can’t change my mind, I’ll tell you why.
- I’m tied to results- happy, successful students and teachers. It’s my bottom line.
- Being positive and kind is the highest priority – results won’t happen any other way: People first.
- Some things are not negotiable. For example: district and state mandates must be adhered. I may agree with your opinion that an action or decision is not necessary or right but sometimes we just have to be good soldiers and do as we are told.
- I prefer a work environment that is organized, clean, comfortable, and professional and gives all who enter positive “vibes”.
Several teachers eat lunch in my classroom. It's an open door lunch. If you want to come eat, you're welcome. Friends supply silverware; I often do the dishes and I always make space in the fridge for you. There is one rule: during lunch we do not talk about anyone who is not in the room. I brook no gossip. Some teachers embrace that, others reject it. It is what it is. Being honest or plain spoken makes my life better.
Spirit week planning often happens in the rush of lunch. At a friend's invitation, we had a crowd of Book Fairies and Super Teachers this year. The crowd bothered others in our English department. Some claimed it was okay when it was just a few of us, but the crowd had grown. Why wasn't everyone informed? I offered a solution and am holding a Book Fairy making session after school one day--just in time for Halloween (don't worry I'll post pictures and directions if you'd like to make your own). It's a solution we came to together. We'll see what happens or who takes me up on the invitation.
How do you include others? Can we be unintentionally exclusive? Do some people participate all of the time and others just when it is convenient? What does relationship mean in the work place? With whom do you have relationships at school? How do those relationships inform your work?
I've been thinking about these issues quite a bit this week as a couple members of our English department approached me and said they felt left out of the spirit week costuming plans.Inclusive or exclusive, cliquish or welcoming, these are important issues in an English department, in a work place. I don't believe the teachers I eat lunch with ever intentionally exclude folks. We talk to the people with whom we've built relationships. Building relationships is a two-way street.
Has someone sought you out by email or in person? Did you welcome them? Respond to their inquiry? Connect? Do you reach out to people? Do you spend time with other teachers at school to get to know them or build community? Is your time "me-focused" or "student-focused" only?
I don't have my whole owner's manual worked out yet, but I do have a few things that are non-negotiables in my world. Here are a few items from my rough draft:
- I don't talk about people behind their backs. If I need to have a hard conversation with you, I will. If I need to process something that happened between us before I come to you, I'll leave names aside as I work through it with my mentor, coach or husband. I don't triangulate.
- I look for the good and try not to complain. Negativity is a virus; it's contagious (look at the research on mirror neurons). A friend once said I exude "rainbows and sunshine." I do. I enjoy being happy and celebrating the good in the world. Students, young people learning, are a huge part of that good, but so are passionate, caring teachers.
- If I say I'm going to do something I will. I will write it down. I will be there or deliver what I've promised. There is no need to ask me "if it's okay?" or "are you sure?" Once I've committed, I'm in. Constant rechecking or checking-in makes me wonder if you are unsure or not capable of completing your end of the matter.
- I will always look for a solution. If you have a problem with a deadline, with a policy, with something I have said, talk to me. Solutions are always possible.
- "Hurt people hurt people." I do not like or believe in sarcasm. I always try to speak directly, to say what I mean and mean what I say. If my message or intent is unclear, tell me.
I don't want the English department to be cliquish or exclusive, but I also don't want individual teachers to deflect responsibility. Blaming others is easy--building relationships? Much tougher.