It's not hard to be nice

I’ve thought for a while about how to write this post without it sounding like sour grapes. But after yet another instance where the administrative structure of a local school district has treated a talented teacher that I know with less than the respect that I think he deserves, I guess I’m not so concerned about it anymore.

Here’s my operating thesis: The administration of a school district is under no obligation whatsoever to act in a way that I am in total agreement with, but it is under a basic obligation to treat all of the people that interact with it with a basic form of dignity and respect. In saying this, I’m not asking for much. I’m really speaking to the school district equivalent of courtesy, somewhat like sending out a “Thank-You” card when you get a gift. Is it something that has to be done? No. There is no law, or other mandate. But it should be done, and we should expect that the individuals to whom we pay large sums of money to run our school districts should be doing it. Sometimes they do. Many times they don’t.

I’m probably more sensitive to this than the average person. My wife is a talented teacher, who has been “on the market” for the past six years. In that time she has held a handful of leave replacements, and one stint as a probationary science research teacher. And in that time, she has also had to deal with more than her fair share of administrators treating her poorly. This list runs from the indifferent, to the callous, to the just plain crappy. I have seen enough of it to understand that it is not the exception to the rule, at least where we live (and we live in one of the “best” places to be a teacher in the country, if not in the world). I’m also keenly aware of it because I see a good deal of consideration on the part of the administrators who I work with on a daily basis, so I know what being good at the job looks like. I also (full disclosure) have my own administrative certification, and I can’t help but consider the many examples that I have seen of discourteous administration from the lens of “man, I sure hope I would do a better job than that!”

I could regale you with the various details of the instances where I have seen administrators fall down on this part of the job. I could tell you who they are, and where they work, and I’m sure other folks could do the same. But it wouldn’t do any good for anyone (and it would also be stunningly hypocritical). Regardless of all of that, at the end of the day, I just don’t think that it is that hard to be a human being when dealing with other human beings. For administrators, I dare say that it should be the baseline expectation.

If you read this, and you are an administrator, or you think that you will ever become an administrator, I hope that you’ll take a moment every once in a while to reflect on the job that you are doing, and make sure that you are treating the people that you work with, and that you consider working with, with common, decent, courtesy. The work of administrators is important. If it’s done well, it’s invaluable. If not, it’s toxic to so many aspects of what makes a school system a good place to work. If you can’t be bothered to do it properly, then do us all a favor: Step aside, and let someone else give it a shot.