Like a moth drawn to the porch light . . .
That’s me. A moth. Whenever there’s pending legislative activity and big changes are on the horizon – I’m always drawn to the bright sparks of controversy. And this is probably true for most school communicators. Although the various proposals and initiatives impacting education that pop up are frustrating to come to grips with, and always seem to be rolling down the fast track to a place of greater frustration for us, I’d much prefer to be in the communications loop rather than up in the cheap seats as a spectator. The point: Be sure to thank someone today who works hard to keep you up-to-speed on today’s most pressing educational issues. That person is helping you be an effective player in the game. (Of course, I haven’t done this yet, myself . . . but I will. Today. Promise.)
So what can school communicators do when our school operating environments are continually assaulted by the intentional jabs, tweaks, and “reforms” driven forward by powerful external forces? I wish I knew. You’d really be impressed if I had a good answer, right? But here is where I’d start.
I’d start with re-stating and re-establishing my organization’s core principles. When our external targets are always getting moved about, and the dots we’re trying to connect are always getting shifted or erased entirely, what remains? For me, it’s my superintendent’s mantra of “Every child can learn. Every child deserves an equal opportunity.” I’m not saying these beliefs are unique or even universal. Your’s may even be better. But for me, they provide solid footing. They offer a stable vantage point from which we can evaluate and respond to all of the proposals and mandates that come our way. That is, if we can avoid a common trap.
Too often most of us get caught (like the moth) flittering around the blazing controversy of the moment while the actual positive promotion of our core principles is placed on the back burner. This oversight isn’t planned, of course. No one would choose this strategy. It just happens. It’s a mistake to rail away on some school issue without our principled “immoveable objects” front and center. But I get trapped and do this all too frequently. (Luckily, unlike the Detroit Lions, my miscues are not on national TV!)