The family is the cornerstone of most communities and civilization in general. It is what binds humans together and brings us peace and comfort. Family is there for us in times of happiness, hardship-- through good times and bad. Jane Howard writes, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”
This quote applies to the school community which is a one kind of family that most of us spend more time with than our real families. Unlike many organizations, schools embody individuals who have dedicated their entire careers to one district, and, in some cases, one school. Throughout the years, our superintendent has taken polls asking teachers and administrators to raise their hands to show how long they have been employed in the district. “One to five years?” “Six to ten years?” “Eleven to twenty years?” “More than twenty years?” The number of hands that continue to raise for each grouping of years is astonishing. Every year at the orientation dinner for new hires, the teacher’s union president tells the audience, “Now that you’re here, you’ll never leave. You have just landed your last job.”
Is this type of bond to one district really healthy? The injection of new ideas and personnel helps an organization grow. Therefore, although the family atmosphere is probably stronger in the field of education more so than any other field, it also means that new ideas may not be shared or introduced. The “group-think” phenomenon exists too frequently in organizations such as schools and feelings of complacency are likely to arise. On the other hand, however, the family bond can create a comfortable and secure environment where people are more willing to take risks and less afraid of rejection.
In order to provide both the emotional support as well as an environment that promotes growth, an expectation of constant growth and learning needs to be communicated by the leaders. “The family” has to have a common goal that helps them produce for the organization. They have to want to learn from their mistakes, regroup, and move forward.
So what kind of family does your school district have? How do you promote growth as well as stability?
James Yap and Teresa Ivey
The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.