I love the discussions that happen at holiday gatherings. This year I listened as a Dan, a teacher in our extended family, told me about his New Year’s resolution to speak to his HS students again about respecting each other, acceptable classroom behaviors, and the responsibilities involved in being a community of learners. He had spoken to them a several times already; but a small number of them were still “acting out” when they got to his class and they were disrupting learning for the whole group. Clearly, Dan was having a rough time with these kids.
Dan hoped that they would get the message that they should want to do the right thing if kept communicating it to them.
I asked, “What if they don’t?”
He answered, “I don’t know. I don’t want to be the “bad guy” or anything.”
What struck me immediately was that Dan’s classroom dilemma is no different than many of the dilemmas of educational administrators or the “captains of private industry”. Leaders want people to do the ‘right thing’ and go along with the direction in which they are leading (and most do go along); but sometimes one or more team members have their own ideas about where the organization or class should be heading and resist.
In Dan’s classroom the resistance was overt and “in your face” with students acting out in front of him. Outside of the classroom with adults this “acting out” is usually done covertly via corrosive conversations that take place near the water cooler and in lounges and cubicles.
It only takes one student in a class or a single individual on a corporate team to undermine the entire flow of progress. These individuals make up a miniscule percentage of the whole group or team; but consume most of our energy
….and the killer in all this? We choose to live with them.
Yes, WE Choose!
It is our choice to avoid the messy situation that inevitably emerges when we decide to uphold the standards of the team or the class; and things can and do get messy. It is our choice when we decide that it is better to “get along”… to be liked, than it is to be effective. And once again, it is we who choose to live in the “hope” that if we keep repeating the standards but not enforcing them that things will get better on their own.
It’s like being in an abusive relationship. We can blame the other person for all our problems, for the abuse they heap on us, and live in hope that the other person will change someday; but at some point we need to CHOOSE accountability for our own lives, deal with the mess, and move on.
None of this is easy and we may wish things were different. We may not understand why people “act out” the way they do; but unfortunately they do. We can choose to live with it; or deal with it.
The classroom is not much different than the Board room in this respect.
In Dan’s case, not only does he owe it to himself to deal with the disruptive element in his class; but he owes it to the other children who want to learn.
Choosing to be accountable and dealing with situations like this doesn’t make us “bad people”.