I am a rule follower. I always have been. I was the kid in class with her hand up. I was the one on Safety Patrol in elementary school. I like knowing the rules, and I find comfort in following them. I was never the “ask forgiveness not permission” person.
As a new principal, I shared my non-negotiables with our staff. Rule following was on the list. People need to know the core values of their leader. In education there is safety in having well-defined policies and procedures to follow. A strong instructional model, a guaranteed viable curriculum, and a quality assessment system guide our work. A consistent Code of Conduct and procedures for everything from field trips to facility use provide consistency. Following them ensures equity in opportunities for children. I know that. I believe that.
But more and more lately, I’ve been wanting to break the rules.
We take our greatest leaps when we challenge the status quo. There is power in examining what we are doing…and then changing it when appropriate.
I think I might be ready to rebel. I think I might be ready to take some risks.
As a profession, we’ve been asking questions about what our most successful teachers, administrators and schools are doing. How are they meeting the unique needs of their students? In some cases, they are breaking the rules. In some cases, they are deviating from the standard, prescribed process. And it’s working.
So if that’s the case, where is the line? How do we ensure fair and equal opportunities for all students and still create an environment where people can take the risks necessary to meet the needs of each child?
Discuss openly and honestly
I want our leaders to feel safe in talking about what they are doing. I want to ensure a culture where we can disagree and challenge each other in positive ways.
I want to get better at listening. I want to go into these conversations without an agenda and be willing to learn.
Share what’s working
I want educators to be collaborative and not competitive. I want our profession to be about finding what works for all kids. I want an educational climate that focuses on sharing, so we all get better.
I want people to focus less on accountability and more on trust. I will never stop holding myself and others accountable because our work is too important not too, but I want my default to be trust in others’ good intentions.
And finally, I want to start taking more risks. I want to challenge more. I want to push the boundaries more. I think it will make me better.
Following the rules has worked out pretty well for me. I’m not sure I’m ready to cast them all to the wind and run amok. But with age (and maturity?) comes the recognition that challenging the status quo is a good thing.
I think I might finally be ready to break some rules!