Recently our overly-large school district held its Education Summit, an annual Saturday morning event for the leadership to connect with the community. The format was pretty much the same as in past years, starting with an opening talk by the superintendent followed by a panel of graduates discussing how their school experience contributed to their success, and then breakout sessions highlighting specific programs.
New this time around, the moderator started things by suggesting that we in the audience tweet about the session and even providing a hashtag. Of course, I took that invitation and about half way through, received an @ reply from a student in the crowd who said she was “disappointed by [my] rude and uncalled for remarks”.
Source: Tim Stahmer, Rudely Challenging the System
Although a part of me cheers Tim in his attempt to engage a large school system, I have memories of draconian command-n-control efforts some small-minded administrators may attempt to impose. Take, for example, the time I let go with full, research-supported broadsides on a vendor’s product (I don’t even remember the vendor these days). The sales rep apparently read my blog, contacted the deputy superintendent, who in turn, called my boss, and I found myself explaining my blog entry.
This type of intimidation–although nothing happened aside from the explanation–isn’t uncommon for educator bloggers. The problem is, in some places, organizational leadership may be too busy enjoying the perks of vendor attention.
It is a horrible thing to accuse, but only with time and distance can I share the story of one superintendent in a small school district who enjoyed a cruise at a vendor partner’s expense. Where could the objectivity be?
Challenging the status quo is one thing, but muckraking another. How can you complain in ways that yield substantive change?
- Decide what your message is and what changes you see are necessary.
- Engage all stakeholders who may be a part of the solution and the problem.
- Assume an attitude of disinterest to avoid letting your emotions hijack your communications.
- Focus on what is best for the organization AND how you can communicate that without putting others on the defensive.
- Say what you DO mean, as well as what you DON’T mean as you strive for clarity.
Needless to say, the most important piece of advice is this last one:
6. Don’t tweet, email or write your complaint–Handle it in person. This one becomes more real every time I violate it.
What’s your advice?
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