Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tough Decisions: Sticking to Your Guns

We work in a profession with many shades of gray. Wait, that didn't come out right?! As much as we write policy, print student handbooks, and post rules in our classroom, the reality is, the sound judgement of the professionals in the building usually will prevail. We can always fall back on what's written, sure, but we know all too well that eventually, the tough calls require human discretion.

It's probably best administrative practice to approach most decisions as a team. That is to say, no decisions are made in a vacuum without the support and collaboration of an army of administrations, faculty, and staff. But what happens when like-minded professionals, who've worked together for a long time, who may have hired each other to be a part of the team, approach the toughest decisions together? And worse, you are a part of that team and you, gasp, have a different opinion or solution?

I think there are 3 situations where you fight for your minority opinion and challenge the majority:

1. Stick to your guns when you are ethically and morally right.

What if, as a coach, your best player blew off practice, was failing 4 classes, or egregiously insulted his teacher in class? Your star player broke a team rule, and now you have a dilemma. That player may be the difference between winning and losing tonight's game. The coaches on staff all tell you that he has paid his price. Even his teammates want him out there. His parents are down your throat. "Coach, just let him play, c'mon!" While I'll agree some fights aren't worth fighting, standing up for whats ethically and morally right is always worth it. 

2. Stick to your guns if you have done your homework.

Big Lebowski fans know what I am taking about. But the rest of us would probably agree that informed decisions are the easiest ones to make. Having the minority opinion requires a lot of courage and it helps if you do your homework. This may involve parent phone calls, conversations with teachers, emails, transcript searches, legal precedent, etc. Putting all those pieces together to complete the puzzle gives us a leg to stand on as the minority.

3. Stick to your guns when your gut won't let you do otherwise. 

One of the best student essay's I've ever read  started off like this: "The Civil War wasn't very civil." Well, technically, I guess he was right. In the same spirit, I'd say, "gut decisions are pretty gutsy." Leading a school, classroom, or team on gut decisions alone is a dangerous proposition. For your passion to grow, you need structure. But for your structure to grow, you need passion. Decision making does involve a delicate balance of passion within structure. So when do you stick to your guns and listen to what your gut tells you?
A. When you can justify your decision as morally correct.
B. When you have done enough homework to make an informed decision.
C. When your intuition is repeatedly challenged and turns out to be right.
D. When you are hungry and your gut is telling you its time to eat.
E. All of the above

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