Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gotta Love Drama - 4 Steps to Deal

Don’t you just love drama?  

Recently, I received a question from a principal dealing with two teachers who are supposed to be collaborating with each other (they’re both reading specialist) but drama that started outside of school has been interfering with their ability to perform their jobs.  The school is suffering.  The students are suffering.  The principal is stumped.  

I know because he added the hashtag #stumped to his message.  

(Aside to principals - don’t ya just want to slap your teachers sometimes?)

Just guessing here but I’d bet these teacher view themselves as good teachers.  If you ask they’d probably tell you, “I’m here for the kids.”  “I love my job, it’s a calling.”  Blah blah ad nauseum cliches that teachers say when they know they’re in the wrong.  

My second guess is that these teachers know they’re wrong.  They know they’ve let a (presuablty) petty drama get in the way of their students and their school.  Not functional.  That was the term the principal used in describing their current performance.  

Not functional. But, individually fantastic.

They can’t play together and now the principal is thinking about re-assigning them.   Drama.  These reading specialist are ready to lose their jobs in order to keep the drama going.  Sometimes I find our jobs as administrators unbelievable.  

“Can’t we all just get along?” Rodney King

The principal wants to know how to fix this - not an easy thing to do but I’ll give it a try in 4 steps.

1) Ignore the why -click here for more on that - and I mean admintaley ignore the why.  Don’t get involved in the drama.  Don’t entertain conversations about the drama.  Don’t offer to mediate the drama.  IGNORE THE DRAMA.

2) Focus on the observable and the effects of the drama.  “When you argue with your partner in earshot of the students it confuses them and makes it difficult for them to concentrate and learning suffers.”  or the opposite extreme, “When you ignore your partner, important collaboration doesn’t take place and teachers get inconsistent support.”  “When data is not disaggregated and submitted on time we are unable to update our school improvement plan.”  The goal here is to paint a bigger picture of the drama - the effect the drama has on the entire school and the students as a whole.  

3) Document the observable.  Have conversations and follow-up with a summary email.  Dear Teacher, On Tuesday you and I met to discuss the effectiveness of the reading program.  Specifically, we discussed the lack of collaboration and cooperation of the specialist.  Be detailed and direct.  If the email doesn't work send letters.  Complete observations and interim evaluations.  If your division has an employee assistance program make mandatory referrals for both teachers.  

4) Follow through - if one or both of the teachers are unwilling or unable to correct the behavior do what you said you would do - in this case move the teachers back into the classroom.  

Four steps is probably not enough but hopefully it’s a start - the most important thing to do is have the difficult, candid conversation.  “Look, you’re screwing up here - and it’s about to have an adverse effect on your employment.  Cut the crap and get back to work.  Your behavior will not be tolerated. Take steps to fix it or I will.”  
Let me know how it goes.
Picture credit Credit 1.00FTE used with permission.

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