Leadership and Consensus

Today, while I was at an orientation for an administration program I am doing this year, I noticed that one of the standards for administrators is to build consensus around a shared vision.

This stood out to me because I FAILed to do this recently. At Back to School Night, I presented the idea of flipped learning to parents, and while some were extremely enthusiastic and encouraging about it, some expressed serious concerns. It ended up being a very tense evening, and many of those parents are still very apprehensive about what I am doing.

I was clearly ineffective in communicating what I was planning for this school year. The parents feel like I had dropped a bomb on them, that I was announcing sudden, unexpected changes. I can understand why they would feel that way. In short, I did not do a good job with the rollout.

Does this mean that any attempts at consensus-building are over? Have I irrevocably lost the PR, never to be won again? Did I blow my one and only chance?

I think not.

My new mission is to build consensus throughout the year. I will constantly update the class blog to broadcast what we are doing. Through this blog, I hope to keep parents fully informed of how and what students are learning. They will see that I intend to supplement–not replace–the social studies textbook. They will see that I will do everything possible to prepare students for the grammar portion of the High School Placement Test (a very important test for students applying to Catholic high schools). They will also see that we will read challenging books for the 8th grade that will prepare them for the literature they will read in high school. Innovative projects will also be showcased, so they will get to see the amazing things their sons and daughters are doing in class.

Perhaps “building consensus” means more than “building a coalition” before acting. Perhaps consensus needs to be built and fostered before, during, and after change has been put in place.

Tonight, I was reading some of my first required reading for my administrative program. The first required book is Moral Leadership by Thomas Sergiovanni. In the opening pages, it discusses one of the biggest problems with leadership studies: “An emphasis on doing things right, at the expense of doing the right things.” Although I realize that I did not announce flipped learning the right way, I know deep down that this new pedagogy is what is right for the kids. I need to improve my communication skills and build consensus, but I must also never lose sight of doing what is right for the kids.

THAT is what leadership is all about.

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