Teach & Serve III, No. 8 – One-on-One

Teach & Serve III, No. 8

One-on-One

September 27, 2017

She was frustrated that I had pulled her aside in public, as-it-were, that I had not scheduled a time with her to talk, that I had set her day off in a bad direction, taking a moment from her harried morning made her day all the more complicated. She asked me why I had not put something on the calendar to speak with her one-on-one.

My first role as a young and inexperienced administrator was Dean of Students (which, in the context in which I was working was Dean of Discipline) for an all-girls high school. We were a small, start-up and we all wore many hats, as it were, during the first years of the school’s existence. Our administrative team was small, so much work was more than being Dean, it crossed over into teacher supervision and other, like tasks.

I do not remember why I felt I had to ask a teacher about an issue one morning. I do not even recall what the issue was, but I think it was disciplinary – something about a student. What I remember completely is having that teacher’s name on my mind to talk to, running into her in the hallway as she was on her way to class, taking a moment or two of her time, having the conversation and going on my merry way, satisfied that I had taken care of whatever it was I felt I had to take care of.

The teacher was in my office asking for a meeting at the end of that self-same school day.

I took the meeting.

She was frustrated that I had pulled her aside in public, as-it-were, that I had not scheduled a time with her to talk, that I had set her day off in a bad direction, taking a moment from her harried morning made her day all the more complicated. She asked me why I had not put something on the calendar to speak with her one-on-one.

As I mentioned, I do not remember what the issue was, but I know that if the issue had been of the “car-on-fire” variety – something that had to be dealt with in the moment, immediately – I would recall that.

No, this was something that I thought needed to be addressed, but I addressed it when I did and how I did simply because I ran into the teacher, not with more forethought than that.

That was a mistake and one I hold on to over a decade after it happened.

There are times that we as teachers and administrators feel we must “grab” someone as we see them – in the hallway or at lunch or the like – because our days our packed and our time is limited. But we ought to limit those types of encounters inasmuch as possible. These kind of impromptu conversations and connections may help us cross items from our lists, but they leave no time for the person with whom we are speaking to consider, to prepare, to fully participate.

Yes, our schedules are full. They might even have more ports-of-call than our colleagues’ schedules do. Yes, we have much to accomplish, but so do they. Yes, we have to get things done. Our colleagues must get things done, too. We have to take all of this into account when we wish to speak with someone.

Our default should be talking to people in scheduled, one-on-one conversations. Our default should be making our schedules work with theirs. Our default should be going to their spaces, not making them come to our.s

This is not too much to ask. It is courteous. It is helpful. It is professional. Surely, as leaders, we are up to it.