Many, many moons ago I worked as a summer camp leader in Michigan. As you can imagine, any time you put 45 college-age women in charge of a zillion 9-15 year-olds, there were “situations” that arose from time to time. Nothing heart stopping usually, no real threats to life and limb, but small inconveniences and unplanned events that made things different than we might have wished. The camp director, Suzy, used to remind us frequently that it was “A mark of leadership to adjust.” At the time, that sounded like a lame attempt to put a positive spin on less-than-ideal conditions.
Unless you’ve been living in a box for the last week, you know that the Snowpocalype grounded many, many airplanes over the last 72 hours. Among the myriad issues and inconveniences that resulted, a number of folks who were to have been a part of our community today and tomorrow have arrived late. In groups like CFGs, a real effort is made to begin and end together- to keep the group focused and intact for the full duration of our time. This was, alas, not to be this year. Folks have been forced to integrate into groups midstream under less-than-ideal circumstances.
But, as they say, it is a mark of leadership to adjust- and adjust we have. I was mightily impressed today with the way my small group welcomed and included a member who arrived mid- protocol and the brave way in which she both joined in and made sure that she was able to assimilate into the group as soon as possible. We worked hard to make her feel welcome and valued and she did her part to meet us partway.
I wonder, though, how this plays out differently in schools. When new students or faculty or leaders arrive, do we welcome them with the same open-armed enthusiasm? Do we welcome their issues and dilemmas and ideas or are we suspicious, leery of the extra work they might be bringing, Trojan-horse-like, into our classrooms? Do we view them as an opportunity for that “mark of leadership” to emerge?
My guess is that sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t- but I’d challenge us to make it more the former than the latter whenever we can. Suzy would want it that way- and so would our kids.
New high school students would try to find someone to sit with at lunch; the “preps” made sure their table was spread so there was no room, the “jocks” were just as bad, the “ag guys” just looked at them. The ones that created the space-the “freaks”, potential drop out, at risk students. If anyone has ever gone through a “new teacher’s workshop” knows that bonding was not a word that worked-where is the faculty bathroom, where do I get copy paper, I have to submit P. O.’s to who, my department head is who but you are in charge. Luckily I spent my life as a member of the coaching fraternity, we got there early, stayed late, knew where to sit at professional development and faculty meetings, who we could get to run our copies for us and who to “smooze” to get the P.O. down quickly. And of course we were flexible!