The #ONEword All School Leaders Should Avoid

Over the last month thousands of Twitter followers around the world have been sharing their #ONEword for 2015.  Admittedly, I have been inspired by members of my PLN and their selections of words such as empathy, attitude, kindness, purpose, resiliency, inspire, courage, engage, create, today, and balance to name just a few.  Some may have selected their one word as part of a New Year resolution or saw it as an opportunity to commit to a change in lifestyle. For others like me, maybe it was a chance to reflect and grow both personally and professionally.
As I embarked on the challenge of selecting my #ONEword for 2015, I will admit I struggled to make a decision because one of my words embodied the spirit in which I wanted to model to school leaders how to behave and the other bordered on how we as leaders should never behave, especially if we aspire to develop a vibrant and healthy school culture.  Yet, both words are coupled in such a way that others may or may not understand nor appreciate their potential impact on another person or organization.
So, I selected FORGIVENESS.  Initially I focused on my need to forgive others who I believed may have wronged me in some capacity.  I quickly discerned that perhaps I should be more focused on expanding beyond my own willingness to forgive others.  After all, wouldn’t I be more fulfilled if I took it a step further and asked others for their FORGIVENESS?
In my head it seemed so.
Yet, I still felt that wasn’t really what was weighing on my mind.  There was another word that was rankling away on me more.  If you have ever been on the receiving end of this word, I think you will be able to relate to what I am about to share.  It is a word that rips at our inner core and makes us question our commitment, loyalty, and value to our organization.
What is this #ONEword?
GOTCHA!
Lamentably, it is a word I fell trap to during my early years as both a teacher and as an administrator. In my head I justified it. I convinced myself that both students and staff got what they had coming to them.  And if I felt that a student or staff member had denounced me in anyway, I believed at the time I had every right to play the gotcha game right back.  How terribly wrong I was to have behaved in such a manner.  I have shared before in other posts that I have never felt I have a monopoly on how to lead. However, I do feel over the years I have learned that by taking time for reflection and developing a mindset that I am willing to make changes in my behavior when necessary, I can and will grow both personally and professionally.  As a school leader, it is my responsibility to ensure our schools do not cultivate a culture that is so toxic that it destroys the very fiber of what it means to be a community.
What does a culture of gotcha do to students and staff?
  1. makes them feel betrayed, de-valued, disrespected, and in many cases, embarrassed
  2. professionally, causes individuals to believe the environment is set up to fail them
  3. designs a focus on placing blame rather than giving credit
  4. spawns an opportunity to tear down and discredit members of an organization rather than build them up
  5. shapes members to feel powerless, to lack ability to influence or change for the better
  6. produces an environment where opinions don’t matter; if you try to explain or respond, you are left without a voice.
  7. questions the integrity of its members; makes people feel others cannot be trusted
  8. expectations from superiors are not open and/or clear, we expect others to just define them, yet nail them when they don’t do what they are “supposed” to be doing
  9. devised to set people up to fail; not an environment where members feel they can take risks
  10. discovers that people are getting you even when you don’t know they are getting you
Looking back I realize I need to heed my own advice when it comes to modeling forgiveness.   One, forgive myself for some of the poor choices I made early on in my career as well as forgive others whose words or comments may have hurt me in some way. Two, ask for forgiveness from those who I have wronged where appropriate
Then again, as I reflect on this post, maybe gotcha doesn’t have to be the #ONEword we avoid after all. Let’s work together to redefine gotcha as spending more time trying to catch others doing something right than trying to catch them doing something wrong.
Gotcha!
Thought for the day:  “Forgive and Forget…not Revenge and Regret.”

13 Comments

  • Mr. Skrabacz says:

    Great post. Impressed by your reflection and insight!

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Thank you for taking the time to give it a read. I sincerely appreciate it. – jimmy

    • lndeutsch says:

      After I read this once, it kept resonating ing in my mind. You have really captured a key root of the toxicity of a school culture with one word! Gotcha! So true. It is the complete opposite of a supportive and innovative environment. It’s insidious tho, never spoken. It seeps quietly and deeply into the culture. I work in a school like that and feel so LUCKY and fortunate to have my awesome Twitter community for support and inspiration! Thank you for writing!!

  • That is a wonderful choice.

  • Joy Kelly says:

    Love this post! You know how strongly I feel about teaching the skill of forgiveness to young people. Each of us has said, thought, or behaved in a way that warrants seeking forgiveness. I’m not a big forgive and forget person because I don’t think we ever forget being mistreated, but I do readily forgive and file it under experience. Thank you for reminding the PLN the power and moral responsibility to model forgiveness to young people. Well done!!!

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Thank you Joy. Loved your comment about forgive and forget. Yes, all we can do is learn from our experience. We are not perfect, but I love the way our team challenges but supports one another in our thinking and decision making. – jimmy

  • Great reflection..tear-y eyed as i went through the list of what GOTCHA does. You are absolutely right. This word..whether verbal or nonverbal strips you of every fiber of good intentions..The key is to love unconditionally. Only then will we get rid of this cancer in our ed communities. Well done, sir!

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Maggie – thank you for taking the time to read my post and comment. You are an inspiration to so many and a game change for kids. I love your comment about community because you live it and model it every day. Make a great week! – jimmy

  • Jeff Johnson says:

    “Let’s work together to redefine gotcha as spending more time trying to catch others doing something right than trying to catch them doing something wrong.” Excellent advice, for everyone! #perseverance

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Thanks Jeff. Our students and staff deserve to be a part of something great. So let’s make sure we take time to recognize and acknowledge their contribution. – jimmy

  • Wow! A very powerful post. So very true. So many educators feel they live in a climate of gotcha especially with all of the talk of teacher evaluations. As an administrator I feel above all I have to eliminate this feeling so that our discussions can be collaborative to foster true growth. It isn’t about catching someone it is about encouraging and supporting growth.

  • Kelli King says:

    Great article! It’s nice to see leaders recognize this. That’s what makes you a leader instead of a manager!