In the day-to-day life of school there are a million and one issues, concerns, incidents or general happenings that can, and often do, occur. Maybe a colleague dropped the ball and didn’t organise their part in a joint project. Maybe one of your challenging students came to school already wired from a bad morning at home and is keeping the momentum going. It could even be that you have had a stream of angry parents come through your door before 10am. Any of these things, hell, sometimes all of these things happen. Whatever it is, as School Leaders and Teachers we cannot simply walk away and pretend it is someone else’s problem. Reality is, it’s our problem. We certainly didn’t ask for it to be our problem but it is. We need to deal with it.
I think it is pretty clear that I am not talking about the good stuff here. I’m talking about those interactions that are upsetting, confronting, confounding and even confusing. The ones that leave you thinking “Where on earth did that come from?” Our natural tendency is to try to immediately return fire, we feel attacked or defensive in some way and don’t want to “let them get away with it”. I’ve been there lots of times and I have returned fire only to then question later whether that was in fact the best course of action. It wasn’t. It never is.
We really need to stop and ask ourselves “Is this really a big deal? Right now at this moment?” By ‘big deal’ I mean a life altering moment, a life or death situation or being on the brink of a massive scientific breakthrough. The answer is just about always, “No”. It might feel this way in the moment. You feel attacked and under the gun but it really isn’t that important. I don’t mean to trivialize the problems that we face but it is important to only assign the appropriate amount of weight. I used to talk to my students all the time when they were losing their minds over a perceived insult about whether or not they thought this was important. Every time the first response was yes. A loud, “YES”. Then I’d ask whether or not it was important enough that they would remember it when they were in high school. The answer, “Probably not”. Finally, I’d ask if this was the kind of critical incident that would be shared long after school was done. The answer, “No”.
Right. It’s not that big of a deal. No-one is dead or dying. Let’s not blow it up bigger than it needs to be.
So what do we do here? We take a deep breath. Realise that we are not solving world problems and make a concerted effort to relax and listen. Let this person share whatever it is that they need to share and help them to assign an appropriate amount of weight. Talk them off the ledge. Relax. Breathe.
It’s not that big of a deal.