This past week, with the help from twitter chats (#leadership20), I have been struggling with the balance between my role as a disciplinarian and developing stronger relationships. This is more around the issues from students, rather than teachers. This has really come to a head when I had to remove on of my the students from the school. I was working with for the past year with this student, developing a relationship where we both could be honest about academic and social progress, looking at how to correct negative behaviour, and building strategies that would continue through to a post-secondary life.
Relationships are built on trust. Trust that our actions and words are commensurate with each other. Trust that clear expectations and consequences are followed through that are best for the educational and emotional well-being of the student.
Walking through the halls, I connect with many students with conversations about their lives. I try to go to different areas of the school daily (in between
parent, staff, community meetings that seem to be forever on my calendar). This allows me to see the school ‘as lived’, as opposed to an empty space, finding the students’ hiding spots for lunch, studying or chatting.
But what happens when the student loses the trust of teachers or of other students. This, I find, is one of the hardest issues around building relationships. I become a mediator, counsellor and advisor. I reach to others in the building that have more competency in these areas than I have, which helps build relationships with them. Finding their skills and recognising their contribution to improving our school, hopefully shows that I have trust in them.
I have been reading a lot of Todd Whitaker’s work lately (especially Shifting the Monkey and What Great Principals Do Differently) and am really trying to embrace the concept of making all the educators in the school great. Finding their potential and giving them the space to flourish. It all comes back to building relationships. I need to find the right approaches to discipline so as not to destroy permanently those relationships.