29 May 2008

Garden Party

I was pondering the idea of integrity where leadership is concerned. I suppose that at this point in my career, administrators shouldn't hold any surprises for me---and yet I still get an eye-opener now and then.

What I'm coming to realize is that integrity is a matter of perspective. The administrators I respect the most approach integrity as being true to their personal vision and convictions. Whether or not I might agree with those views is a different matter, but I respect that their actions match their words. And at the other end of the spectrum are those who are true to the job. That is to say that they are there to push the papers, play the political game, and pick-up a paycheck at the end of the month. They may talk the talk of school improvement or a focus on kids, but it is not their first love. Somewhere along the way, they've lost enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity. Whatever reasons originally drew them to admin have not been adapted as times have changed. They do the job as it is with no thoughts of what it could be.

Should we, as Ricky Nelson suggested, learn our lesson well? Since we can't please everyone, should we learn to please ourselves? At the garden party of education, does having integrity also mean having a bit of selfishness about one's ideals?

I understand how easy it is to become disillusioned with working in education. If you care, it's hard work to be in a classroom...and even harder to steer a school. What variety of integrity is the right one?


Unknown said...

I think you hit it squarely in your second paragraph with the line "that their actions match their words." As a new administrator at the district level, I am finding that getting people to trust that you, a) have a vision at all, and b) are trying to follow it because you believe it is best for the students, is a very difficult thing to do.

There are building leaders out there who do just as you say: push papers and collect paychecks, and there are others who are unbelievably committed to what they do. With that commitment does come a bit of selfishness about one's ideals, but I would necessarily interpret that selfishness as close-mindedness. One of the biggest challenges I face in dealing with the academic departments I deal with is melding all of the various educational philosophies together to help everyone move in one direction. I am sure you realize how many differing philosophies there must be within your own department: old school, new school, behaviorist, constructivist, Piaget, brain-based, etc. Getting those to work requires some permeability of administrative vision.

The Science Goddess said...

I agree. I think this is where "perspective" comes in. In order to bring together such divergent interests...in meeting in the middle...small sacrifices have to be made. So a department or grade level which sees you mediating between two sides may associate the give and take with a lack of integrity. The admin has sold out. Or the admin doesn't care. Or whatever other assumptions are made.

How do we get a school to agree on what integrity looks like?