Sunday, January 11, 2009

What We Learned from Annette Breaux 3.0

This is the third post in a series of reflections on our visit with Annette Breaux.

Annette Breaux stressed the importance of attitude for teachers. Most teachers, thankfully, are happy to see kids every day. As a result, teachers generally smile and act happy to see their students each day or each period. However, as Annette pointed out, teachers have lives outside of school and with those lives come trials, difficulties, sleepless nights and the like. Teachers' attitudes before, during and after class affect students either positively or negatively. Teachers must not allow their personal lives and their difficulties at home to affect their students in a negative way. Therefore, Annette argued, teachers should fake it when necessary. On the days when teachers are tired, distracted, not fired up to be at school, they should smile and pretend to be happy to the best of their abilities. Obviously, teachers can't fake a state of mind indefinitely and that isn't what Annette Breaux meant. What she meant was teachers should smile and act happy so as not to adversely affect their students rather than pouting and complaining. Students are sharp and they'll pick up on negative vibes from teachers. Teachers must be cognisant of this fact. Besides, Annette posited, it's hard to be angry or irritated while smiling; smile, smile, smile.

This advice, in my opinion, is doubly important for administrators. This has been a week of weeks and, frankly, I'm exhausted. However, I can't let my students or my teachers know when I'm tired or when I need a break. As an administrator, I never know when a student, a parent or a teacher needs to confide in me, seek advice, find strength in my leadership or use my shoulder to lean or cry upon. Therefore, I can't afford to be tired or moody at school. I can't let my guard down for a minute. My fatigue or mood could affect a teacher who, in turn might affect a student. My fatigue or mood could affect a student who, in turn, might give a teacher a hard time. If the administrator can't be free of mood swings and signs of fatigue at school, how can the teachers be expected to keep personal and professional feelings separate.

My challenge to educational leaders is this: take Annette Breaux's advice (Fake it!) for teachers and apply it to your own life. Don't allow your fatigue or your issues outside of school to affect those around you. The ripple effect of a moody, grumpy or edgy administrator can have significant influence on campus. When you feel like you're not going to make it, fake it! Smile, smile, smile.

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