Schools are a lot like families. Great schools, like strong families, function best when individuals do what they must for the common good. At home, we take out the trash, clean our rooms, and call if we are going to be late. We do pretty much the same things every day at school, too. This is the only way anything gets done well, at home or in the classroom.
But cooperation and mutual respect and diligence don’t just happen, not in families, not on faculties. Someone has to deliberately create an atmosphere where trust and love abound, where everyone can share equally in success and where missteps are learning ops, not failures.
At home, our family turns to my husband. He has worked double shifts and nights and holidays without complaint. He moves kids in and out of tall buildings (though not in a single bound and not without some elevator rage), makes me lunch every morning, handles the odd long distance automotive crisis, runs generators, and still has time for tea with our granddaughter. He remains calm and, as the kids say, he “knows stuff.” Maybe best of all, he can keep me from shooting my mouth off by making me laugh at myself before I can make a fool of myself.
So, at home, we are truly lucky. Our family is functional even when we are dysfunctional. When things go wrong–and they often do– and people get mad, at the heart of our family is pure love. It sometimes takes our leader to coax it out of us, but we all know it is there.
And at school, we are also that fortunate. We work in a building where professional support is the norm, where love abounds. And we didn’t just get lucky to find such a perfect place for teachers to teach and for kids to learn.
Our principal leads by example every day. No one in the building works harder than he does. This week, he was part of the Geography Night on Wednesday, visited a neighboring high school on Thursday evening and chaperoned a middle school dance on Friday night, all in addition to his day job, overseeing the smooth, safe operation of our building. He respects his staff and his students. It’s not every day that you see the principal playing basketball after school with the middle school boys. It’s not every day you see the principal helping the seventh grade girls sort out an over blown drama.
The result? No one wants to disappoint him. No one. He has given us all the great gift of a sincere and intelligent role model. Teachers do their absolute best because they respect him, not because they fear him. Kids trust him to be fair and to hear their side of every story. Some people even played basketball at a fund-raiser just because he asked.
New evaluations for teachers and administrators don’t have rubrics for this type of mutually respectful relationship. I know, supposedly it’s in there, somewhere in Danielson’s Domain 4. Just find the box and check highly effective. Now it’s now all about the data, supposedly reliable and objective. Reliable? Objective?
Well, I for one am not buying it. How can human relationships be quantified? I know I am not a math person, but I don’t think that this is even possible much less productive. People work best–are highly effective— when the person they work for respects what they do and supports their labor and cares for them as individuals. It doesn’t take a statistics degree or an MBA to figure that one out.
When we get together as a family, the “data” we keep coming back to centers on respect, confidence, love. We plain old like each other–most of the time. And we take care of one another as best we can. We also laugh together and play together and work together.
There is no “scale” to evaluate this. You either have it or you don’t.
Lucky me, I have where I live and where I work.