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But I Didn't Mean To...

I was recently talking to a super savvy educator who shared a really vulnerable situation with me.  They had been working with a particular student, who, in all transparency, was really difficult for them.  In the heat of a moment, this educator lost their cool and said something they regretted to the student.  They felt disappointed in themselves and knew they had blown the progress they had been working to so hard to make with this student.  

As they shared their remorse, I was touched by their humility, honestly, and willingness to own their mistake.  I also was struck by how easy it is for educators, especially at this time of the year, to make more of these "exhausted and exasperated" mistakes.  Teachers have spent the past 9 months giving every ounce of energy and positivity they can muster to the students, the school, and the academic outcomes.  

What really stood out for me as I listened though, was how this kind of a mistake can happen to ANY of us - not just educators.  We get tired... maybe we don't get enough sleep, or we have a spat with our significant other, or our kids act out.  Maybe we are running low on finances, or are stressed about our health, or are concerned about the well-being of a loved one.  Life impacts us.  And, we don't always handle it as gracefully as we'd like.  (Dang, that being human thing!) 

Those of us in education have worked hard to train our brains to remember that "all behavior is communication" when it comes to student behavior.  We know that when a student makes a mistake, our goal is to calmly, rationally, and skillfully discuss the challenge, problem-solve the situation, and help the student identify how they will handle the situation differently in the future.  We know this is not only best practice, but it will provide also long-term skills for the student.  And yet, on tough days, we can mess up and accidentally be impulsive, reactionary, and hurtful.  

Those of us who are leaders run into the same challenge.  We know that when staff struggle - they are often attempting to reveal they are experiencing a difficulty with the task at hand.  They may be overwhelmed, they might have technology difficulties, or they may be burned out and lack motivation.  Maybe they lack communication skills to effectively speak their opinions, have collaboration conflicts with a co-worker, or are struggling with specific demands of the job.  In any case, as effective leaders, we must still find a way to identify what is getting in their way of success, help identify their need, and work to provide those supports to facilitate progress.  We know that our role as impactful leaders is to do our best to coach, mentor, and facilitate their success through the barriers they are experiencing.  And yet, sometimes it's just easier to be irritated, frustrated, or just plain "put out" for their additional needs.  Not our best versions of ourselves, eh?  

Those of us who are just plain human (okay, I guess that's ALL of us now) have days we shine our brightest versions of ourselves.  We are regulated when others are spinning, we change our stories about moments or individuals that challenge us, and we set intentions for hard conversations to ensure we are positive-minded when difficulties arise.  And THEN there are days we, regretfully, miss the boat.  We know who we want to be, we know the way we want to interact, and we know what we want the person we are dealing with to download from our interaction... but somehow, our well-intentioned brains' get hijacked, we react instead of pause to think, and we have messes in relationships we need to clean up. It happens.  It's human.  AND, it's my belief that we are all on this journey to keep exercising that muscle to prevent it from happening as much as we can - because we know HOW we show up for others makes a difference.  

All of this leads us to continuing to work on ourselves.  Our ability to be self-aware of how we are showing up, allows us to be like this courageous and insightful educator I was talking to - who noticed the disconnect between who they expect themselves to be and who was actually showing up.  This is brave... and it's got the power to be incredibly impactful!  It's Diamond Leadership in action: accepting personal responsibility for how our actions impact others on all sides of us.  

My challenge to you is to pause, reflect, and notice.  Are you having more "But I didn't mean to" moments than you'd like?  If so, what can you do to support yourself in slowing down, considering what this person's behavior is communicating to you, and identifying what needs could be supported in a more intentional way?  Because ~ who you are and how you show up matters. 

Kinda reminds me of the amazing Maya Angelou quote   :) 



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