There’s a point in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when a villager, caught up in the mob mentality of denouncing a woman accused of being a witch, shouts: “And she turned me into a newt!” Silence. Comic silence. Wait a beat… “I got better!”
As a school administrator, there have certainly been days when I’ve felt like a newt.
I got better.
At least I strive to get better.
I’ve noticed that in my eight years as an administrator I’ve been at my newtiest when I do a poor job of listening. This could be face to face, or even more often in email. This year, my first in a new principalship, I’m committed to doing my best to manage my in box and address the flood of emails I get each day with attention and promptness.
I’d be naive to imagine that I’ll always stay ahead of the game, but I know that really hearing what others tell me matters and I want to improve my ability to listen when parents, students, and colleagues at my school reach out to me.
On the other side of that dialogue, I’m also focused on communicating to every member of my school community with clarity, honesty, and timeliness. Just as not hearing can hamper my ability to respond to what others tell me, so too the results of not making myself clear (and my message easy to find) can bring frustration to those I want to reach.
What does this look like? In the face of major construction this year, it includes email, phone calls, Twitter, and Facebook. It means blogging about my school and projects going on on campus. It’s about face to face conversations, events like my monthly principal’s coffee, and lots and lots of being out on campus asking questions, answering questions, and talking with students, teachers, and staff.
If I get it right, I believe my school will be better for it. When I stumble, the word I’ll mutter under my breath: newt.