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edu180atl: thad persons 8.9.12

I facilitated a focus group today at my school. The group was charged with brainstorming on action steps around the school’s commitment to globalization, diversity, and sustainability. The admin team of the school, of which I am a part, had selected a few key priorities from a long list of ideas created by this group back in April. All the selected priorities were important, but they were incomplete. Simply put, there was a major hole in the area of diversity.

It was a tense moment as this group of faculty questioned why this important piece was left out. Where was their voice? Where was the school’s commitment to this priority? Voices were raised, tears were shed, and I found myself sweating under the strain, trying to keep calm. It was a hard conversation, one in which I finally owned that the group was right.

My team—I—had made a major mistake, and the only thing to do was to make certain that this issue—a core part of the school’s identity–was given more priority. It took me a moment, but I had to learn to admit the mistake in the moment, in front of my colleagues, and to “do the next right thing” to start to fix it.  It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t packaged, but I learned that this very “real” moment was a chance to recognize the “hole” in the room and start to fill it.

About the author: Thad Persons is jack of lots of trades; master of some. Dean of Faculty, English teacher, proud hubby/daddy, avid waterskier, eager learner.

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Extraordinarily thoughtful post, Thad. I wish we could all “own up” in this fashion. This kind of honesty sets a high bar for the blog this year. Thank you.

    August 9, 2012
    • Hear, hear! I hope that others will follow in kind. Honest, sometimes uncomfortable moments of learning–those are the wisdom seekers. They challenge our heart and our gut, as well as our head. Thanks Thad.

      August 9, 2012
  2. Last May, Laura Deisley wrote on this blog about how she was nearly moved to tears watching a group of students present an innovative solution to a global problem. It wasn’t their research, strategy, or prototypes that overwhelmed her. It was their empathy. She ended that post with these words: “People may say education in Atlanta is broken. Institutionally, as a whole, maybe it is. But I believe.” The compassion those students exhibited made her a believer.

    Today, I had one of those days where I was certainly losing faith. Then, I read your post. It’s strange how someone else’s expression of empathy and, in the case of your post, vulnerability can give us hope and change our perspective. I was feeling like a jaded cynic today, but now you’ve nudged me up to an optimistic skeptic! Thanks, Thad.

    August 9, 2012
  3. Wow, Thad. Your words ring true. Inspiring me to move. Thank you.

    August 9, 2012
  4. Thad, I think many independent schools are grappling with this same issue right now, ours included. The conversations involved are liberating, harrowing, cathartic, exhausting, and oh so necessary. I have to continually remind myself that through all of this discomfort we will forge a stronger learning environment for our students, a more supportive and open work environment for ourselves and our peers, and ultimately a better world for everyone.

    Thank you for sharing this post. It gets to the very heart of what I believe Edu180 is designed to do: share and connect our experiences, both the easy ones and the not-so-easy ones.

    August 9, 2012
  5. Stephen Kennedy #

    The holes in each of us are deep, many, and painful. Those holes also then appear in groups of us. Rarely can we even “see” them. Less rarely do we speak of them. You did: Outstanding!

    August 10, 2012
  6. Thad,

    What I love about you is how honest and transparent you are. I’ve see it in personal encounters and now in this really public forum. Your leadership here–owning a “mistake”–gives us all more comfort with our own failings, and the powerful model of “failing up.” You comment: “Do the next right thing.” That is something I tell myself often and suggest to my kids as well as colleagues who are feeling defeated. In fact, I add “put your head down and then do the next right thing” so that I am encouraged to focus, take a humble position, and do right.

    Thank you for sharing such a real moment. We empathize, and we will follow your lead.

    August 10, 2012
    • Already we are seeing connections between edu180 authors. Just yesterday Bret Jacobsen suggested that we “fail up” and that we “start with questions, not answers.” In your post, you do both. Thanks.

      August 10, 2012
  7. To add to the chorus of commenters, I can just say thank you for your model leadership. The more transparency the better.

    August 11, 2012

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