Songs for the Struggling Artist


Waiting for Good Leadership
May 7, 2012, 12:18 am
Filed under: art, business, education, theatre | Tags: , , ,

As a person juggling between 5 to 7 jobs at a time, I see a pretty wide range of managing/leadership styles. I also see a lot of these things in action at the perhaps 300 schools I’ve worked in over the years. I realized today, after yet another awkward exchange with someone I work for, that I am waiting for an ideal. I see a lot of things that work, but the things I have never seen in the decade and a half of teaching are as follows:
I am waiting for someone to ask me how they can help me be the best I can.
After years of being observed and given “Feedback”, I am waiting to be invited to watch a manager do his/her job to do the same.
I am waiting for someone to be clear and explicit about what they see as my strengths.
I am waiting to be asked what I think about the organization I work for. (This has happened once, but not in this position – see what I wrote about that.)
I am waiting to be appreciated as a valuable asset to a team or organization, to be given a bonus for making things happen or a gift/token or a nice note.
I am waiting to be asked what sort of training would best benefit my teaching practice rather than being called in and “instructed” twice a year.
I am waiting to be asked to bring my artist’s brain to the classroom, to be invited to experiment, to explore, to take risks. I do these things anyway, but am inevitably taken to the cleaners for it.
I am waiting for someone to treat observing a class with the same artistic rigor and care and delicacy as an artist watching another’s work. Liz Lerman pointed out that many artistic feedback sessions devolve essentially to what the person giving the feedback would have done if they made the piece. This is what observers of teachers do, too. Observations are almost always a list of what the observer would have done if it had been their class. Which it wasn’t.
I have had some managers do some great things. One in particular got us a raise, fought to get me some school support in a troubled classroom and asked us what our frustrations were. The fact that that was the ONLY time that that has happened in 15 years in about as many organizations is an indication of how rare it is.
I’m waiting still and getting more and more brittle and more and more I bristle when given “helpful” “feedback” that is no more helpful than a slap in the face.

I’m telling you that I’m waiting but I’m also writing this down so that I remember when I’m standing on the other side, sitting in the (admittedly difficult) manager’s chair, to practice what I preach. When that happens, I want to find ways to give someone else what I have waited for all these years.

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