Monthly Archives: November 2012
As I think about what I’m grateful for this year, there’s much to be thankful for. I want to take this opportunity to tell friends and colleagues in the industry that the marvelous opportunities to spend time – real and virtual – with you during the last 17 years have been a gift on both a professional and personal basis. Thank you for allowing me to become part of your world. That you would let a lawyer-type into your midst to the degree you have is testimony to how seriously you take your responsibilities. I hope you have a great holiday with family and friends, and a wonderful year ahead. My heart is with my people on the east coast, especially in New York and New Jersey – I wish you well.
My good friend Peggy again offers superb inspiration – this time for a Thanksgiving post. There are far too many wondrous things for which I am constantly grateful. I will list a few here but will be sure to slip several more into upcoming posts. As I sit in a hotel room in China I am very thankful:
- For the free interchange of ideas and stories with friends, family, and colleagues.
- To work with people who are committed to making a difference in the lives of kids.
- To be able to choose to learn, work, and play in varying amounts.
- For advancing technology which brings us together and allows us to share.
As this holiday weekend draws to a close, let me suggest we try to focus just a little bit more on gratitude. Whether it’s a gratitude walk, prayer, conversation, or just a gratitude moment, we could all stand to share our thanks and, in the process, gain a little more perspective.
P.S. – I was unable to post this from China. Sorry for the delay.
“Trust but verify” is perhaps the most famous phrase uttered by our ex-president Ronald Reagan. Several years ago, at a driver training, I mentioned that we would be implementing our 40th President’s advice with regard to one of our procedures.
This comment was very offensive to one of our senior drivers. She believed that “trust but verify” meant don’t completely trust. And trust, if it isn’t complete, isn’t really trust.
Regardless of how you feel about President Reagan, a trust but verify policy works for more than nuclear arms reduction agreements. Verifying:
- Tells your people that you’re engaged (and care).
- Helps you to fulfill your responsibilities to your district and your customers.
- Supports you in fulfilling your responsibilities to the taxpayer.
There’s an old Slovenian proverb – “Pray for a good harvest but keep on hoeing.” Wise ancient Eastern Europeans knew that it was folly to manage by hope. They only stopped hoeing when they verified the harvest. In education, volumes have been written about checking for understanding. Successful teachers verify that their lessons are learned.
Verifying is not distrusting. Rather, it assures that what we thought we asked staff to do, they heard and executed. It also ensures that our instruction actually works as intended. When I’m out in the field “verifying” I’m also checking to see if we gave the correct instructions. Maybe circumstance dictates that the training needs to be “tweaked” to maximize our team’s performance. If I don’t verify I’ll probably never know when and where we’re missing the mark.
So, YES I’ll trust but verify. To do anything else would be irresponsible.
Postscript – It took a few years but the driver came around to respect and even like this approach to management. She overcame her fear of oversight and learned to appreciate our consistent efforts to improve.
I collect egregious stories about bus drivers. I adapt real life situations I learn about to make them teachable moments. In a pinch, I’ll invent a good illustration of a point I want to get across to drivers, attendants, or their supervisors.
It’s with an eerie sense of “how could this happen” that I read, sometimes, headlines or court cases that describe events that I have dramatized, enhanced, or simply put out there as a shocking exaggeration of unacceptable strategies or failings designed to capture my audience’s attention, and stick with them.
I ask you. . .how is it that I continue to read accounts of how a driver or teacher has duct-taped a child? How could each of these headlines (some real, some concocted by me to represent the situation reported) form accurate lead-in’s to media reports of terrible situations:
“Who’s the adult: Driver sprays mace in student’s face”
“Driver disabled camera before mistreating handicapped child”
“Cell phone video captures driver’s cursing”
“Aide is silent while driver takes female student into his own home off-route”
At an IEP meeting a couple of weeks ago a parent requested that we put her student in a straightjacket. Yes. That’s right. The parent wasn’t joking. In her mind this would solve many of the “extreme behaviors.” I had an immediate visceral reaction of disgust, as did others around the table. But I had trouble finding words to describe why we felt this request was so wrong. After all, it promised to control the extreme behaviors (hitting others.) It certainly would make safely securing the student in his seat a much easier task.
Not surprisingly, the rest of the team was more than glad to let me take the lead on this one. I was thinking about the student’s civil rights but I chose to talk about the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). We don’t just jump to an extremely restrictive solution even if it promises to be the safest option if there is a right-sized solution which is less restrictive. After some exploration, we ultimately chose to use a properly fitted safety vest with crotch strap and to monitor the situation closely.
It sure would have been easier for us to accept the parent’s suggestion but a few issues swayed us:
- If we used the straightjacket we feared it would be too easy to continue its use since the student is non-verbal and the parent was OK with it.
- A straightjacket just minimizes the impact of behaviors rather than “solving” the problem.
- Shouldn’t we use the most extreme measures only when there are no other options?
What would you do?