Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

You know that person.

At the neighborhood block party, she’s the rabble-rouser. At dinner with friends, he keeps rehashing malicious memories. At work, that person thrives on hype.

That person is all about… the drama. 

Got drama? Stir it. No drama? Create it. Only a little drama? Proliferate it. A lot of drama? Manipulate it. Drama’s not necessary? Inject it. Drama’s inappropriate? Force it. Drama’s about others? Make it about you!

Peaceful simplicity? Accelerate chaos. Pure motives? Muddy the waters. None of your business? Make it personal. Someone else’s one shining moment? Steal the spotlight.

The elephant isn’t just in the room. The elephant is riding you. It’s a thorn in your side, a cumulonimbus cloud overhead, and a creepy shadow that follows you. It restrains you from happiness and de-creases your genuine smile. It’s constantly stressing you out.

You’ve practiced all the supposed tried-and-true strategies. You’re thinking about not thinking about that person or the drama. You’re slowly phasing that person out of face-to-face connecting and online interactions. You no longer let that person have power over your feelings. You’ve added, subtracted, multiplied, and even divided to conquer–completely avoiding that person altogether.

What’s Worse?

You can’t get rid of that person… or the drama.

As a school leader, all you want to do is navigate policies, curriculum, and interpersonal matters to make teaching and learning better for the whole child. But somehow, that’s always met with gooey challenges.

After all, there’s politics in everything. And everyday micro-politics can get… sticky.

Once the gumshoe, now you’re stepping in it–getting gum all over your shoe.

The pitchy and the painful? You don’t want to touch it and get your hands dirty. You’re not sure where that gum’s been. And you don’t want that residue sticking to you for a long time. But on the other hand, you can’t isolate it, fix it, or avoid it. You have to be associated with it–at least to some extent.

What Can’t You Do? 

You can’t step over the gum because there are people and information connected to that web that are meaningful to other areas and operations. You’ll lose loyalty, buy-in, and support in future endeavors.

Here’s a porous strainer to separate, letting [only] the good stuff pass through.

You can’t meander around the gum because time and disconnects won’t allow for such inefficiencies. Ain’t nobody got time for passive aggressive behavior, mind games, and extra steps. And that’s not you, anyway. You want to continue modeling direct communication, relationship-building strategies, and positive, professional behaviors.

Here’s a wet rag to scrub the side of your shoe.

You can’t go straight through the gum because there’s no individual mass with enough force to outstretch and unstick all those connections. This straight-line strategy has influential impact and great risk for long-term damage. After all, that person is on your overall team, and you are the leader.

Here’s a paint scraper to get most of the gum off your shoes.

Finally, the gum starts blowing bubbles, like it’s a living, breathing organism. This one hurts a lot. You’ve heard the rumors. You know the talk behind your back. And it ain’t pretty. And I don’t care WHO you are–it bothers you. When it gets personal, it personally hurts. Those cuts run deep, getting in to your hard-to-get-at places and closing in on your heart of hearts.

Here are latex gloves, toothpicks, toothbrushes, peanut butter, WD-40, sand, knives, nail-polish remover, olive oil, paper towels, a bucket of water, a plastic bag, ice cubes, and a freezer to get the gum out of the deep-down grooves of your shoes.

And after all that… Are you stuck?

What Can You Do?

You’ve invested hundreds of hours, so you can’t give up now. You’ve initiated and endured countless crucial conversations, hoping to stir up awareness, inject empathy, and proliferate morality in that person. You’ve given of yourself so frequently, that human decency implies–but doesn’t always guarantee–reciprocation.

Here are some strategies I’ve used to deal with that person. Please comment on my post so I can learn about your strategies, too.

1–Kill them with kindness.

Initially, you may want to return the favor. But that’s what that person wants–that’s not what you do. Take the high road. The high road has no traffic jams or signs for upcoming shame, remorse, or regret.

2–Accentuate the positive.

You do have power! You can reinforce the positive behaviors you wish to see repeated, transferred, and applied in the future. Praise those. Associate yourself with those. If at all possible, ignore the negative.

3–Get to know that person.

Lean in to the context. Learn everything you can about that person. What is that person’s life like outside of school? There’s a big chance that that’s affecting what’s happening inside of school. But don’t be too Pollyanna. Keep this simple truth in mind: not everyone is a good person.

For years, I really resented all those times I’ve stepped in it. Now, I’m grateful that that kind of person is in my life, giving me several opportunities to become better and improve my leadership skills as a whole teacher and a whole educator every day.

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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