You know that feeling - your heart begins to pound, your hands get sweaty, you go over what you should say a million times. Sometimes I dream about how the conversation will go down. I will say all the right things and then all will be well...
Yah, right. It doesn't always go down that way. As an administrator and now as a supervisor, I still find this to be an area of growth. It isn't that I am afraid of confrontation, but I just want everyone to do their job and to love all kids. I know this isn't realistic but it is my wish.
It is true that I will dream the conversation the night before. I have been know to write down what points I should say. We are also fortunate in our district to have a consultant that will help us script a critical conversation so as not to mess up in terms of the ATA or the CUPE union.
Todd Whitaker's book, "What Great Teachers Do Differently" offered me an excellent understanding of what should be happening in the classroom and when things were not going well, I had a standard to share with the teacher. However, I realized early in my admin career that I could not have these conversations without building a relationship with the teachers. I needed to demonstrate my own integrity before I could even approach a teacher about classroom issues. Unless something totally immoral was happening in my first year, I knew I needed to wait until I had built that relationship to a point where I could have a critical conversation.
I also realized that it was important to have a common language and culture in the school. We worked to learn about being a professional learning community with a Leader in Me approach so we could have a common language with students and staff. At that point, we had a common standard as to how we would approach teaching and learning with a greater focus on how the student would learn. This became the standard that I could base any necessary critical conversations.
Having these key factors in place, gave me greater confidence to have critical conversations when I needed to with either staff, parents or even students.
Now I am called upon to have critical conversations with folks I don't know as well. Just the other day, I had to discuss adult behaviour with an educational assistant. This was difficult in terms of me not really knowing her well and I would expect she might be annoyed at this top down direction. I recognize the need for me to get to know the educational assistants in my schools as I am considered their direct supervisor. I find it more difficult to do this than I did in my school. I can't be in every school every day and I am pulled in many more directions, but even remembering a person's name or things about their families will help me build that relationship to a better point for the future.
It is definitely easier to build relationships with my team but I am still hesitant to venture into that land of critical conversations and the old heart pounding and sweaty hands have returned when I have to question what is being done or not being done. I am also expected to build relationships with administrators in the schools in my area. While I have the background of being an administrator and understanding their point of view, this gives me a slight advantage when I need to talk about inclusive practices with them. However, I don't know all the administrators and they don't know me. Until I build that relationship, I am just a voice going Wah Wah Wah.
The confidence will come and it has always a part of my growth plan. Will I get to the point of complete confidence? I hope so . . . As I grow into this new leadership position, I will learn the way to lead these conversations to ensure student success in inclusive classrooms as well as the segregated classrooms I work in. I expect I will get to the point of being able to have critical conversations with other administrators when it comes to inclusion and inclusive practices.