- Head of School/CEO
By Avi Halzel, Head of School/CEO
I've been a school director for quite some time now. I've been privileged to experience many successes and worked through a number of challenges. I've learned so much through the varied experiences that I have had in education. But I also recognize that I have room to grow and improve. At the start of the current school year, I decided to engage in a process of growth, learning, and improvement. To support this challenging work I selected an educational coach and I’m really excited about this work.
Having the incredible opportunity to discuss my style, thoughts, challenges, and decision making with an outstanding coach has led me to see and understand things in new ways. I notice myself approaching things differently than I have done in the past. I also find myself reflecting on how I have done things in the past.
One area of particular interest to me has been the examination of situations where I might disagree with someone else's perspective or position. In education, we deal with complex matters involving children, their teachers, and parents who care deeply about them. Sometimes the challenges that we discuss are more important to the parents than anything else in the world. Parents bring their heart and soul to these conversations while as educators, we come with our experience, training, and passion.
It strikes me that I have participated in too many meetings and conversations that did not go as well as they could have. Sometimes conversations get stuck on who is right and who is wrong and often that really isn’t the point. One time I found myself in a disagreement with a parent over a grade a student received. I can also recall a challenging conversation about whether or not a student should be allowed to participate in a high-level course that I felt the child was not ready for but the parent really wanted the student in the class. I even remember a time when someone insisted that the new lighting in a classroom was causing nausea and anxiety and the old lighting system must be reinstalled.
In each of these cases and others as well, you might have been right. I might have been wrong or maybe we were both right. But does that really matter? I now understand that I sometimes pushed my own perspective harder than I listened to the other perspective(s) being shared. We might have both been right but didn't take enough to really hear and understand each other.
The real question is, how can we create enough trust that regardless of the situation and the ultimate decision people feel that we have discussed the issue completely, we understand each other and we are going to move forward in an appropriate way? The real point is that we partner together as we all work to educate our children.
I believe that we can create this kind of trust by being more transparent and through the use of radical candor. Radical Candor is an incredible book written by Kim Scott. The book provides many powerful insights but can be narrowed down to a simple idea; when working with people it is best to show that you care personally and challenge directly. I do care personally about everyone in our community. I may not always show it but I do care deeply and I am committed to doing a better job displaying it. And I recognize that this is sacred work especially when I am being challenged directly regarding my decision-making that directly affects individual families and their students.
As a community, we are going to engage in radical candor so that we can better understand each other and feel good about the decisions we make together. I believe we can communicate in these meaningful ways and that by doing so, we will be able to confront the necessary issues that must be discussed in order to strengthen our community. As a visionary head of school, I do not have the option to be complacent. Sitting back does not lead to growth or learning for anyone, and I see it as my job to model the values of our institution; kindness, integrity, curiosity, community, and purpose. I feel renewed, invigorated and alive with my own work to evolve and transform and I want to thank you for being on this journey with me. I look forward to continuing to share my process with you.