EXAMPLE #1– A FEARFUL BACK TO SCHOOL NIGHT
During my first year, in the first month of my new assignment as middle school principal, I was confronted with a choice that had the potential for derailing my career and negatively impacting my family. It was late afternoon when I received a phone call from the Board Secretary, that she would soon bring me 500 copies of the Board of Education’s position paper on the tense negotiations currently underway with the teacher’s association. She told me that this was a Board decision and I had no choice but to give this information to the more than 1000 parents expected to attend Back To School Night, that evening. I immediately understood that refusal would probably cost me my job, but handing out this provocative information in an event designed to bring the school and community closer together, was wrong.
Fortunately, this matter was resolved without my being fired or distributing the information to parents. Someone told me that I was courageous for taking the stand that I did. But with two small children, a new house and other financial obligations, was I courageous, or foolish to do what I did? It is said that there can’t be courage without fear. Well, I was certainly fearful. But now, many years later, I still have not been able to answer this question. I guess, maybe a little bit of both.
EXAMPLE #2– THE SCARY ART TEACHER
Some teachers were scared to arrive even a little late to the art room to pick up their class. If they were late, or in some way violated the art teachers strict code of behavior (for others, not her), they were in for a scolding; often in front of their own students. In other words, the art teacher was a bully. No teacher had the courage to stand up to her, until one day, a fifth grade teacher had had enough. She came to the defense of another teacher when she told the art teacher, “You may intimidate other teachers, but you do not intimidate me, and stop treating your colleagues this way.” The bully had been called out and thereafter pulled in her horns. The fifth grade teacher had summoned the courage to speak up and made working at that school better for all.
Other examples of teacher courage in schools include:
- Disagreeing with principal at a faculty meeting about a significant school issue
- Informing the supervisor of another teacher who frequently screams at his students
- Telling a parent who is often hostile something negative about their child
- Taking an opposing position from the group consensus
EXAMPLE #3– WHO ME?; I DON’T THINK SO
A fourth grade teacher developed an exceptional writing program, confirmed by observations and by a variety of assessments. The principal thought that it would be a great idea to have this teacher present a workshop about her program, with the intent of possible school-wide adoption. But schools can be places of conformity, where the following Japanese Proverb rules:
‘The nail that sticks out shall be hammered down’
The teacher overcame her fear of standing out from the faculty and presented a fantastic workshop that was praised by the staff and with some modification, became the writing program for the whole school. Student writing improved significantly. If it weren’t for this teacher exhibiting courage, and risking the possible alienation of some fellow staff member, this would never have occurred. This happened a number of years ago, and my perception is that the culture of schools has improved where teachers now assume a variety of leadership roles.
EXAMPLE #4– A SMORGASBORD OF COURAGEOUS ACTS
- The student who stands up to the kid bullying his friend
- The principal who challenges the superintendent’s ideas
- The parent who has legitimate concerns about a teacher’s practices but raises them any way
- The secretary who tells the principal to get his own coffee
Without courage in our schools, change will not occur. We need educators willing to challenge the status quo, which means taking risks. We need educators to stand up to those who obstruct what is best for students. We need COURAGE!
SO WHAT EXAMPLES OF COURAGE HAVE YOU WITNESSED?
PLEASE SHARE THEM IN THE COMMENT SECTION UNDER CONTACT
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