Wednesday, March 14, 2012

“Why?” Can Make Change Possible

As principals, we're not afraid to ask a lot of questions when we don't know how to do something. But what happens to the questions when we discover how to do it? They stop, don't they? If we think we already know the right way to do something, or worse, it's the way we've always done it, how open are we to learning a better way or even a different way? We aren't, are we?

Think about the educators in your building. Do you have a “why” guy or gal? I'm not talking about the much dreaded “why”-ner whose questions often lead to - Why is this more work for me? I'm talking about that relentless teacher who consistently questions your educational philosophy, ideas, methods, programs, guidelines, and expectations by simply asking the relevant question, “Why?” How is this courageous teacher perceived by others? Does annoying, obnoxious, or a nuisance come to mind? A better question may be, how do you as the leader treat this change maker?

As principals, it's time we embrace the “why” guy or gal. Every day, this teacher is asking “why?” and if you’re on a quest to lead a progressive school, you should keep asking it, too. Just as important as answering it for yourself is answering it for those you lead. It’s important to show your teachers the reasons you do what you do. In fact, I believe if you ever want to have any influence among your teachers, answering “why” is the most critical question you'll ever address.

I truly believe as principals, it's our responsibility to build a strong partnership with the “why” guy or gal to challenge our assumptions about what we actually think we know. It's normal to find ourselves having a superficial understanding rather than the deep understanding we originally thought we had. This is the advantage of such a partnership. These teachers are constantly pointing us in the right direction. Beware, avoiding their questions can prevent learning and change. However, embracing their questions can make change possible.