There will be no discussion! This will not be discussed – period. Wow! What if I said that to a parent of one of my students? What if I said that to one of my students? What would that solve? What would that do to our relationship? Yet we say to teachers: “That cannot be discussed.”
Many teachers are helping their students to use their words, to talk through problems. They are helping students to learn how to listen, speak up, and work to solve problems. They don’t tell their students you can only talk about such and such when there is a problem.
Schools do have procedures in place for discussion, often called building discussion. There are rules for these discussions such as principals might have to be given time to look over the issues, which items are discussable & which are not discussable, etc. Some principals follow these rules to a tee. Others are a little more lax, understanding that teachers need to have opportunities to discuss. When teachers make a submission for discussion, these principals understand that they might at least need to listen.
It can be very frustrating, when a teacher has an item for discussion and the principal says, “No, that will NOT be discussed.” This is so frustrating to a teacher because to him/her the item is important; it often impacts his/her students and their classroom. There are times when teachers submit items that are indeed discussable, and leadership will say the items cannot be discussed. When this happens, the union president should be contacted. He, in turn, can contact the principals and let them know the items are in line with the stated rules and discussable. But the more important question to be asked - should a teacher have to be forced to take that step? Once a teacher takes that step to contact the union, she is seen as a trouble maker, a negative person or worst of the worst – not a team player. Who is not a team player – the one who has the question or the one who refuses to discuss?
As a leader, wouldn’t one want to know what their people are concerned or worried about? If a principal wants to follow the rules exactly for building discussion, first they need to accept and allow items that are discussable. Second, if there are items that are “not discussable”, a leader might want to: have a time period where any concerns are discussed and everyone knows the items are off the record. “These items are off the record – let’s discuss and try to solve together” or the principal LISTENS to concerns/questions and explains their thinking about why things are in place the way they are. Again, if items are “discussable” they should be on the record. When the principal is open to hearing questions & concerns, imagine the trust that develops from these interactions. It is also important that principals are honest during these conversations and not defensive.
Teachers also have a part to play in submitting discussable items.
No matter what, teachers deserve to be heard – especially with items that are discussable. If teachers are told an item is not discussable and it pertains to students – they have a responsibility to check to make sure it is not discussable.
Why do we have building discussion in the first place? What is the best way to build an environment of trust and respect? Is it by refusing to discuss? Building relationships begins with listening and understanding even if agreements cannot be reached – at least you have listened to each other and have tried to understand.
There will be no discussion – where does that get us?