Tuesday, July 02, 2013

This is my boss

In the never ending series of changes to my role and responsibilities (which I can appreciate because if we cannot change and adapt, we go extinct), I am currently in charge of the summer bridge program. This is a program where students who had some difficulty getting through 8th grade are provided support in reading or math in order to support them in their transition to high school. The students are reluctant at first to accept the ideals of the program and every once in a while, a student will be sent to my office to discuss choices that they have made that might have led them to this program and the choice they most recently made. The discussions with the students usually go pretty well and we are able to get them to reflect on their choices and be cognizant of the triggers that lead to them.

Every once in a while, one of the teachers will tell a student "This is my boss". While I would like to think that, for the teacher, the meaning is colleague, supporter, and fellow learner, I get the feeling that the teacher is indicating to the student that this is the person in charge and if you won't behave for me, you had better do it for the boss. This has left me perplexed.

On one hand, some of these exchanges will progress out of the developing teacher-student relationship. Essentially, the teacher is saying "Look, I know you are having a difficult time right now, but please, for MY sake, don't make me look bad in front of my boss". If that initiates the desired behavioral change, then that indicates to me that the teacher has made a connection with the student, and vice versa, and for each others sake, a change in choice will be made. This is a good thing that relationships are being developed, but is it truthful? Why is the external motivator of "the boss" needed?

On the other hand, the "this is my boss" comment seems to give up control, power, and authority (for lack of better terms) that the teacher of a class should have. It reminds me of when a teacher writes a discipline referral for a minor classroom issue. The referral sends the unintended message to the student that the teacher no longer cares to deal with this issue and will pass it off to someone else. Is that what the "this is my boss" comment is going for? Does the teacher lack some confidence or not feel the immediate support to enact a decision that they feel is best for the student and the class?

This situation reminded me of the "Front Porch Leader" by Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy). "It is in these moments that leaders must decide to leave through the back door or take a seat on the front porch". Am I being overly critical of a teacher who uses the boss as a deflection? Are they leaving through the back door? How often do I use my boss as a deflection of why we have to do something? This is something I will have to contemplate in this new school year.

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