“Just like a bad relationship, our communication has broken down. You aren’t listening,” said Shawnee Mission School District teacher Amanda Coffman back in February 2020.
Teachers across the U.S. have been saying the same thing to administrators and school boards for many years, and the volume is even louder now after the disruptions of the 2020 pandemic.
Ms. Coffman resigned publicly in front of the school board in protest of the conditions proposed in the new employment contract. Her frustration was the result of a series of unsuccessful negotiation attempts that had exhausted all sides. Organizational health and employee engagement were at a dangerously low level--but no one was willing to yield.
You realize, of course, that this situation in Kansas City wasn't an anomaly.
A recent USA Today/Ipsos survey found that 20% of teachers are unlikely to return if/when their schools reopen in the fall.
Keep in mind that there was already a shortage of qualified teachers and staff because so many were leaving the education profession. 50% of teachers surveyed in another poll indicated they have considered quitting because of low pay, high stress and no respect.
A culture of No Respect for educators is a systemic factor that will escalate the massive disruption of schools in 2020.
This pattern of disconnected leadership was the norm well before the culture-disrupting pandemic emerged. Back in 2007, Dr. Penny Armstrong shared her research in, What Teachers Expect in Reform, in which she underscores the fact that teacher perspectives have been largely ignored in the reengineering of education policy. Not listening has consequences.
Effective education leadership requires a mastery of relationship skills that cultivate trust and engagement among teachers and staff. School boards and administrators now have little choice but to reconsider their approach and improve their capacity to listen.
- Being mentally, physically, and spiritually present
- Actively engaging in the conversation
- Not interrupting through intentional pauses
- Expressing authentic interest that seeks to understand
- Curiosity about their experiences and perspectives
- Reading between the lines to hear what isn’t said
Beyond just the virus, how healthy is your school leadership and organization? Are you ready to advance the level of Cohesiveness and Communication among your administration and faculty?
If so, why not start planning your summer Leadership Retreat NOW? The agenda should include an assessment of Organizational Health and identify short-term (think 90 days) initiatives that can be achieved to build your capacity for relationships and listening.