Champion For Teachers, Education, leadership

Let’s Be Candid, Important Work Is NOT Always Pretty

This morning I listened to a thought-provoking podcast on BAM Radio Network with Ben Gilpin (@benjamingilpin) and Brad Gustafson (@GustafsonBrad). They interviewed Starr Sackstein (@mssackstein) about a blog post she wrote encouraging teachers to speak candidly.

You can listen to the podcast HERE

I have been thinking about this podcast all day–all the way back to days earlier in my career when my motto was, “Shut up Allyson” in order to avoid conflict. Today, as an elementary principal, I value candor from the teachers I am fortunate enough to work with.

My philosophy is that I work FOR the teachers, and unless they tell me what they are thinking, I cannot serve them well. Setting ego aside, I have to be willing to modify or even dismiss my ideas when we decide together that they won’t work. Collaboratively we come up with amazing things that would never be possible alone.

When relationship-building is embedded into the culture, it is assumed that we will follow the golden rule and not disagree just to be disagreeable. We recognize each other’s strengths while continuously reflecting and collaborating. We NEED to be challenging the way we do things when we are talking about something as important as student learning. We can do that in a way that feels like professional discourse, not arguments.

As with any relationships, there are bumps in the road and occasionally feelings are hurt. If the culture is there, those bumps can be talked through and worked out pretty easily when addressed right away. Important work is not always pretty, it doesn’t always feel good. We will fail many more times than we succeed. But–if we have each other’s backs in an honest way, we feel like we can do anything.

Thank you Starr, for your willingness to stick your neck out there and encourage teacher voice! As always Ben and Brad, you entertain and inform every time!

1 thought on “Let’s Be Candid, Important Work Is NOT Always Pretty”

  1. Allyson,
    Very insightful. The line I read multiple times was, “We NEED to be challenging the way we do things when we are talking about something as important as student learning.”

    This is where people sometimes get defensive. When we shut our doors and believe that they are ONLY my students, the students suffer. We need to embrace the mentality of “OUR” students.

    Now, if we take on this attitude, it should become a bit easier to enter into critical conversations that demand honest, open talk.

    You’re exactly right…it has to begin with culture! Terrific post, thanks for sharing.



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