The Big Picture

Basketball, mvongrue, uploaded January 24, 2009 via flickr, Creative Commons License

My 7th and 8th grade basketball team had a rough season this year. The team finished with a record of 10-17 and we battled injuries, tough losses, and very talented teams. In the midst of a losing streak in January, in a game where we were getting crushed, I called a timeout and told the boys that they need to stop getting frustrated about every single mistake. I could see the frustration on their faces after every foul, turnover, or missed basket. I told them it is no longer about making plays or winning games, they need to look at the big picture. They needed to decide what this season is all about for them. Was this a stepping-stone for reaching the goal of playing basketball in high school or beyond? Or is this possibly their last season of basketball so they need to learn some life lessons of hard work, discipline, and teamwork? At that point in the season, I decided we needed to stop focusing on individual plays and start seeing the big picture.
As I look toward becoming a principal for the first time this fall, I am trying to determine what is a part of my big picture. One item that I keep arriving at is communication. My wife had a good quote recently regarding communication. She said, “The root of all conflict is a miscommunication.” I think she is on to something. Conflict can be avoided through efficient and effective communication. Conflict can also be solved through appropriate channels of communication. It is helpful to spend time thinking about how, when, and why you will communicate. Conflict cannot be completely avoided, but effective communication is crucial to helping build relationships between students, parents, and educators that in turn will help provide effective learning environments.

4 Comments

  1. Hey Kevin,

    As a long time middle school basketball coach, I can completely relate to your work with your team this year!

    More importantly, as a full time classroom teacher, I can tell you that your focus on communication as a new principal is spot on.

    The communication failures that I see the most frequently in schools are principals who forget to tie EVERYTHING—scheduling choices, budgeting choices, hiring choices, professional development choices, remediation and enrichment choices—-back to their school’s mission and vision statements.

    I find that I resist decisions that I don’t understand—and that resistance becomes push back any time that school leaders can’t explain how their choices are connected to the mission and vision of our school.

    What does that mean for you?

    EVERY time that an important choice is made in your building, refer to the part of your school’s mission and vision that the choice supports.

    For example, at the start of a staff development session on literacy, you could say something as simple as, “This staff development session will help us with our goal of raising passing rates in our limited English proficiency populations from 75% to 83% by the end of the year.”

    Or after spending school funds on a new formative assessment program, you could say something as simple as, “Our hope is that this program will give teachers the support that they need in order to engage in ongoing formative assessment in their classroom, which is a key step towards meeting our vision statements about changing grading in our building.”

    What shocks me is how infrequently these kinds of rationales are attached to decisions by principals which leaves faculty members guessing about the reasons for a choice—or more frighteningly, questioning whether the principal even had a rationale for their decision.

    Any of this make sense?
    Bill

    March 20, 2011
    • Kevin Creutz said:

      Bill,

      Thanks for the comments. It makes a lot of sense. Tying decisions back to mission and vision is crucial.

      As I prepare for my first year as a principal, I have been trying to decide what my “non-negotiables” are going to be. What exactly will I stand for? When anything that comes up that requires me to make a decision, I can refer back to those “non-negotiables.” Outside of those “non-negotiables” I can then delegate that decision or seek sufficient feedback for the decision. I imagine my “non-negotiables” will fall right in line with the my new school’s mission and vision.

      -kevin

      March 21, 2011
  2. Larry Marty said:

    Kevin
    After my devotion time this morning, I went to the Connected Principals site. Seeing your name, I got to your basketball article. With you coming to our campus today to share with our faculty on how to use technology and sharing about some of the many apps out there for educators and students, I thought it best to respond to your article.

    Communication is so important….whether done in person, on a web site, or in an e-mail. As we go forward in being a 1:1 school next year, we will need to communicate clearly with our parents, students, and with one another on our faculty and staff. The reply from Bill Ferriter sounds so simple, but it is important. Going back to the mission statement, as well as the vision statement and core values of your school is important. Two other educational quotes fellow educators have shared with me over the years are: “We’re here for the kids,” and “Being a principal is like coaching the “Big Team.” The LHS faculty is looking forward to your seminar this afternoon.

    In Christ,
    L. Marty

    May 25, 2011
    • Kevin Creutz said:

      Larry,

      Thanks for the comment. I am looking forward to being at LHS today.

      From what it sounds like, LHS has already begun the communication process with the iPad initiative, which is a great start for the program. I know it will be a great program and I am very excited for your school.

      See you later

      -Kevin

      May 25, 2011

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