You might think by the title of this that it might be yet another blog entry about school safety. Indeed, in many of the schools constructed (especially those that house older students) in the past decade contain too much open space; however, this entry is about a different kind of open space…. the kind that school leaders need to leave to allow in conversations for others to more easily share information with you.
How can someone be “prepared” to do this as a school leader? It took me a couple of years into my administrative career to figure this out. Leaving spaces in conversation that offer students and other staff members the opportunity to share important life events, important “news” from the student body that one might not otherwise hear, etc., takes practice and patience, which are two characteristics I lacked a bit as a young school leader. Furthermore, how one leaves these open spaces in conversation will look different at each school building due to differing school cultures. Ultimately, a school leader in a particular building must pay attention to everything in order to discern how to leave open spaces for conversation within that particular context. Paying attention to body language, conversations, and classroom interactions are a few very important ways to do this. Being visible, smiling and interacting with students in non-instructional settings (i.e. hallways, cafeterias, etc) will help a school leader in any setting to create the open space for students and faculty alike. Plus, doing this models the type of behavior you would wish to see teachers demonstrate.
The current trend in education and especially from those OUTSIDE of education is to figure out how to quantify everything and use that data to inform evaluations of all educational professionals. I would argue that there are deeper ways to look at all the different ways that teachers and school leaders impact a child’s development and growth. In addition, this world requires more than academic growth. This world requires (and will continue to require, even more so) the skills to interact with one another respectfully and to discern the importance of the kernels of good that exist within the overabundance of stimuli thrown at us each day. Leaving open spaces in conversations allows the school leader to build that trust and community that will make other achievements for students and teachers slightly less difficult to achieve.