Seeing eye to eye

Yesterday I had the opportunity to have a great discussion with one of the teachers at my school. We started this conversation during his conference period, and the discussion continued for about an hour after school ended.

Our discussion covered several different topics that are typically considered to be the “sacred cows” of educational discussions. Throughout this conversation we both brought up many good points, and the conversation definitely caused me to reflect and think about my educational beliefs and the way I approach my job as an Educator.

Perhaps the most important part of this experience was that there were a couple times when we did not agree. We had a philosophical difference in our beliefs based on past experiences and personal beliefs. Even more importantly, at no time did the conversation become personal for either of us. We talked as professionals and kept our focus on doing what we believe is best for students.

Though our perspectives are slightly different based on our current roles, we both were able to recognize the importance of having these difficult conversations that get Educators fired up. We both spoke passionately about what we believe and why we believe it, and in the end we shook hands and thanked each other for a great conversation.

I ended this conversation by saying that “if we aren’t growing, we are falling behind.” I truly believe that we need to have these difficult conversations that leave us vulnerable; conversations that are going to make us a little uncomfortable in an effort to grow and improve. It was a great end to a great week!

Here are a few questions to ponder as you get the 2011-2012 school year underway:

1) – Can you have conversations with your colleagues while making sure they don’t become personal; can you keep the focus on doing what is best for students?
2) – If you are a teacher, can you have a candid and open conversation with the administrators in your building?
3) – If you are an administrator, can you have candid and open conversations with the teachers in your building?
4) – Do you see discomfort, disagreement and difficult conversations as a necessary route to growth and improvement?

This post is also at Life of an Educator.



  1. Great post Justin! I agree that to become an effective administrator, we must put ourselves in vulnerable situations to build trust, to show that we take a personal interest in our teacher’s perspectives, and for us as administrators to grow and learn. I learn absolutely nothing when people agree with me.

    I feel as if I put myself in a vulnerable situation each time I submit a blog post on my website. I know that you and hundreds of other outstanding educators will read my thoughts and viewpoint. However, my favorite posts has been the one’s in which educators have commented and shared suggestions or concerns in regards to an idea I posted. In many of these instances, I have altered my viewpoint because of convincing feedback.

    I think as effective administrators, we must make it a goal to create these type of collegial conversations with our teachers and encourage this type of dialogue. However, the question is, how do you respond when a disagreement occurs in which both philosophies are good for kids, but you, as the administrator, believe that your philosophy is great for kids. What is your next step to change someone’s belief?

    September 11, 2011
  2. Hi Justin,
    Your recognition of the importance of being able to disagree with respect demonstrates what a healthy school culture you are building. Too often, our best teachers “go underground” with their pedagogy because of concern that colleagues and supervisors will disagree. Yet, different perspectives, shared respectfully, stretch our thinking and help us collectively become better than we are alone. I have recently become more aware of conversations at school in which there is respectful disagreement through engaged sharing of different ideas as well as those in which people are more reticent or smile and nod. I am proud to be having more and more conversations with teachers, other educational leaders, and even parents such as the one you describe with a teacher. I’d love to continue the conversation about how to nurture such conversations deliberately. Thanks for sharing!

    September 11, 2011
  3. Sometimes we don’t want to hear but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to hear it. Thanks for sharing you experience Justin!

    Be Great,


    September 11, 2011
  4. Innovations in Online Education, Inc. said:

    Thanks for sharing…excellent illustration of “democracy in action”. This is what makes our country strong and it should be demonstrated to our students in their schools and their communtiies! Fred De Sena VP IOE, Inc.

    September 12, 2011

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