You know how every once in a while, something hits you smack in the face and knocks you for a loop? A couple of weeks ago a friend posted this article on Facebook: The Top 5 Reasons "The Customer is Always Right" is Wrong. For most people, it was an "interesting article." For me, it was an eye-opener as to why I don't make a good administrator.
I still have angst over my time as the director of a small, private school. I had been a teacher there for over ten years and when the director left I thought I might be able to take on a new role. I was recently divorced and ready for a change.
The trouble was, I was a people pleaser. I felt I needed to be able to please everyone, but in the end I ended up pleasing no one. Without meaning to, my efforts to satisfy the parents, (i.e. the customers,) ended up discounting my most important resource... the wonderful teachers with whom I had always enjoyed a collegial relationship. By trying to help resolve a few parents' unreasonable issues, I created a hostile environment for the people I should have been protecting. No longer was the school I adored a fun and generative place for me to be. I had gone from being a popular teacher to being "The Man". After three years of ever increasing anxiety over my inability to pull families and teachers together toward a common goal, I was a basket case. I knew it was time for me to leave.
I've been recovering from this experience for the past five years and while I knew I had gotten past the initial heartbreak and regained most of my confidence, I was still uneasy. Then came this article, which made me slap my forehead and say, "Duh! Of course!" It all made sense. As a result, I think I have finally been able to bring some closure to that episode in my life.
It's not easy for me to admit openly that I was such a complete and utter failure at something. (I don't think that's ever easy for anyone.) But it's important for my growth to do so. I owe a deep and sincere apology to each of the fine teachers who were a part of the school at that time. I let you down at a time when you needed propping up and for that I am truly sorry.
Yet as painful as my administrative experience was, I wouldn't be the same person I am today without it. Happily, I can now say that I am thriving once again in the classroom. Not only that, since leaving my old school I have become a much better teacher. The work I have done with active participatory learning and conflict resolution in my new classroom has clarified for me what it means to be a teacher. I am filled with gratitude that I have been able to learn from a painful experience and that I am once again where I was always meant to be.