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It’s My Way or The Highway – Relationships Don’t Work That Way

My parents are awesome! I usually did what they said, especially when “It’s my way or the highway!” was unleashed to make sure you knew where you stood.  As a parent, teacher, and principal I reckon I’ve pulled out something along the same lines too many times as well.


Sometimes getting what I thought was the outcome I was looking for (a level of compliance, garnered by a position of authority that let everyone know that I was in charge), was all I could focus on.


Of course in the long run, this approach never worked. Forget about the highway, I was just creating a series of roadblocks preventing productive relationships with the people in the school community I belonged to.


I was unable to build trusting and productive relationships with the people who were subjected to my poor judgement and active limbic system at the time. Luckily for me, my parents, and my family at home, we had time to mend the relationships.


I want to shift the setting of this story to professionals in a school where you are in the prime position to be able to build relationships. Where the road you make and take as a community can be constructed together.


At school sometimes there isn’t time to mend and heal relationships, which means we miss an opportunity to future proof our school culture and our community. But by adopting a Restorative Mindset, which enables and empowers those connected to us to feel safe, supported and valued, we can create stories about our school culture we can be proud of.


It’s important to know ‘Your Way’ and understand what beliefs, values, dispositions, and behaviours are at your core. You can then understand where it fits within the community you serve as a principal or teacher, recognising that whatever road you travel is for your students (collectively) to reach a destination.


Sometimes you must take a detour, adjust, bend a little to have a win-win, take different directions and even let go of what makes life easier for you, to have the best chance to build the relationships we need to have, for our school communities to have their own way, not you!


Seeking to understand before you act or decide on a direction is essential.


One of our partner schools is South Street Moe who have a catch cry, ‘Connect before you correct.’ They really hold true to the idea of building relationships with students at every opportunity, especially when the students need them the most.


I guess I’m trying to say is that it’s not all about you – but in a good way! Because the rest of your community must do their bit to build relationships as well.


Professionals in the school are part of the community, with a key role in shaping where the road takes all stakeholders. You do this in your everyday interactions:


  • What you say
  • How you act
  • The way you think!


And if your way of being puts relationships and relational trust at the core, maybe that really could be the highway!