Low on the Ladder


July 10, 2012 by Brad Currie

During the summer months I am blasting out a series of blog posts related to best practices that all educators should exhibit in order to promote a positive school culture. Last week’s post focused on “swallowing your pride” and understanding the importance of listening and making sound educational decisions that will benefit students first. This post will expand that idea and delve into how educators must “under-react” in various situations and “stay low on the ladder” in order to do what’s best for kids. The idea of “staying low on the ladder” came from a week long Merck science seminar I attended with fellow colleagues a few years ago. The presenters continually promoted the idea that in order for groups to be successful they need to keep their emotions in check, do what’s best for kids and “stay low on the ladder.” This catch phrase has stayed with me for a number of years and I have applied it in numerous occasions with great results.

The annual middle school scheduling process is grueling to say the least and everyone must be on the same page in order for it to meet the needs of all learners. The complexities associated with creating the schedule are many and being able to “stay low on the ladder” will enable it to be a success. Through the months long process of developing the schedule, key groups of people need to work as a team to accomplish various goals. Guidance, CST, teaching staff, administration, support staff, students and parents input is organized and made sense of in terms of what fits where. At times this process can become very frustrating, especially when there is a juggling act with testing, end of year activities and daily responsibilities. The important thing to remember here is that a sense of humor and an ability to connect with people will keep emotions in check and move the process forward in positive direction. In all honesty, at certain points things do get a little hairy as opinions, projections and data play into the scheduling fun. As my dad once told me, the best thing to do in tough situations sometimes is to “under-react” and in present blog post terms “stay low on the ladder.”

Throughout the school year various discipline issues arise that test people’s emotions and ability to remain calm as role models should. The middle school child loves to test the boundaries placed on them and often they need to be gently reminded of the impact their negative behavior has on others. As the vice principal, students will come into my office just after a heated exchange, inappropriate behavior or other type of discipline infraction. The key to making the whole situation playing out as a meaningful learning experience is to “stay low on the ladder” and get to the bottom of the issue. Then, being able to hash things out and have the student understand the consequences they received from their actions will go a long in moving on from the situation. School leaders ability to “under-react” and “stay low on the ladder” will make a tough situation the best it possibly can be.

The human connection and being able to possess a good deal of empathy is a very simple, yet often difficult way in which to handle tough situations in a school setting. School stakeholders look to administrators as a model of how to effectively relate to people and properly react to various situations that will arise on a day to day basis. “Staying low on the ladder” definitely helps and takes time to master. Going off the deep end and losing your cool only contributes more to a negative situation. Educators, especially school leaders, need to continually model appropriate behavior and remain calm, cool and collective. This particular topic is both engaging and relevant and goes a long way in promoting the success of all students.


One thought on “Low on the Ladder

  1. wtpowers35 says:

    Nailed it Brad!
    I like the “low on the ladder” phrase. Never thought of it that way. You make some great points.
    Thank you for sharing.

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Brad Currie

Brad Currie

Brad Currie is the Middle School Dean of Students and Supervisor of Instruction for the Chester School District in Chester, NJ. He is the co-founder and co-moderator of #Satchat on Twitter. Brad is passionate educational technology and social media in the school setting.

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