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We’re stuck with a fair bit of complexity in schools.  Coping with it requires a sophisticated approach to leadership and to teaching.

That means that we’ll have principles that drive the way we make decisions and strategies that reflect those principles.  But a nimble and respectful school, chock full of variables and complexities, also recognises when exceptions to our principles come along.

Let me show you how it works.

Principle : Engagement is always the first principle of fair process in a restorative school like mine.
Strategy : I never tell a parent whose child has wronged (eg, got in a fight) what that child has done in the first three minutes.  Instead, I ask what’s been happening with that child that I might be unaware of because it engages the parent in seeking a preferred solution.
Exception : If that child is injured or hurt at all.  No parent appreciates that information being withheld.

Principle : I eliminate power and authoritarian positions from my Teacher instruction.
Strategy : I use circles for all of my instruction.
Exception : When I need notes taken or when a video needs to be watched.  You need to be front-on for that.  So, we move the tables for that.

Principle : I have zero tolerance for violence against Teachers.
Strategy : When violence against Teachers occurs, the student will be suspended.
Exception : When that teacher (who was actually me once) wasn’t physically harmed, when the student was acutely remorseful and when we considered that student a suicide risk without the ongoing support of his school.

Culturally competent schools are clear on both their principles and the exceptions to those principles.  Schools who struggle culturally tend to be those who lean too heavily on their principles with an “Ah well, those are the rules” attitude.

This isn’t respectful of your immense professional judgement or of the real-life circumstances of your people.

And I reckon it’s about time the professional judgement of Teachers and School Leaders was respected.

Maybe we need, ourselves, to do that first.

Keep fighting that good fight,

PS. This is the kind of School Leadership work I’ll be exploring at Leading School Culture. We’re bringing that 1-day chance to invest in your school’s leaders to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in the next few weeks. It’d be great to see you there.

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