Today after graduation ceremonies were done, I sought out my boss, the new head of school. I had to ask a question about an event we were doing after lunch for one of the families that had made a gift to the school.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I like him and think highly of him. As I’ve not voiced here before, I’ve had an incredibly hard time judging where I stood with him most of the time. As a new person in school, he wasn’t always easy to read or get what he was thinking. Some of his initiatives have been very positive — timely communications about disciplinary issues made my life much easier with the kids, and his willingness to make changes on a gut instinct simplified my life on several occasions.
All the same, when he heard my voice, he cut me off mid-question.
“I’m going to miss you. I’m really going to miss you.”
I rocked on my feet.
It was a hard thing for me to hear. I haven’t really felt valued, or heeded, or consulted, on a lot of school-related matters in a while. Although I’m chaplain, I don’t serve on any committees or hold any administrative posts in the school hierarchy. I’m not often asked for my opinion, though I try not to be shy about giving it when asked.
A few posts ago, I lied. I know one incompetent teacher: me. I’m often more aware of my failings as an instructor or coach than I am of my successes. And it is ALL too easy for me to believe that many of my colleagues regard me the same way I regard myself: inadequate to the task.
Maybe that’s not the case.
Had our head of school let me know prior to today that he wanted me to stay, or that I was an important part of his vision for the school, he could have kept me. Probably pretty easily. But by the time he asked me to finalize my contract at the start of May, it was rather too late. I had assembled a narrative for myself in which I saw the imperative of moving on as rather more important than staying — because I saw that the school was working to establish a new sense of itself, and I didn’t know where I fit in that mission.
I take two things from this. First, if I want to be a team player at my new school, I have to be forward about asking leaders what the school vision is and what’s my place in it. And second, I should encourage you who are administrators to take the time to greet colleagues and employees in a way that communicates how valuable they are to the institution.
Because “I’ll miss you next year” is nice. But it’s not nearly as nice as, “I have a place for you on the team right now.”