The Having of Difficult Conversations

The Having of Difficult Conversations

This is the part of leadership that is not taught in graduate school. We address curriculum, instruction, finance, governance, assessment, accountability, and data. But not this one. When is the last PD session where this was addressed? And yet, this is one of those unavoidable, full of anxiety and potential land mine experiences that we, who go by the name leader, have to have. Its absence in our preparation and evolution as leaders, is inexplicably and conspicuously, absent.

So where is the preparation? There is none. Unless you consider life, in all of its journeys, arrivals, departures and detours, as our coach. It is.

And it is that time of year again. For many, it has already occurred at the outset of January or shortly after Spring break or now. It is calling someone into your office, looking them in the eyes, and telling them they will not be offered a contract for next year. Euphemistically speaking, it is the pink slip syndrome.

Are there recipes or scripts for it? No again. These are scenarios that require all the honesty, integrity and empathy we have acquired. Anyone who tells you this is easy, has either left his or her conscience in the parking lot, or float on a carpet of denial. It has to be hard. It is about another human life.

I find my center by deep breaths. Keep my words to a minimum. And I imagine, that it is me, who is on the other side of the desk.

About David Penberg

David Penberg is an urban and international educational leader. He has held leadership roles in non-profits, community-based organizations, independent, international and charter schools, and in higher education. He has a deep grounding in progressive education, the cross-cultural experience and leadership development. Dr. Penberg has a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He was a fellow in the Carey Leadership Program at Bank Street College (1982-84) and Klingenstein Fellow for International School Heads at Teachers College, Columbia University (2008). He was the founding director of the nationally recognized Liberty Partnerships Program at Bank Street College. Since then, Penberg has held posts as Head of Studies and Head of School in international schools in Mexico City and Barcelona. He was most recently the Head of School at Innovate Manhattan Charter School in the lower east side and is an adjunct at Pace University’s Teaching Fellows program. He abides by Auden's dictum "We were put on earth to make things."
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One Response to The Having of Difficult Conversations

  1. Jen says:

    oh man. I cannot imagine how difficult that must be. On a different note, as I’m reading your bio I see that you are an adjunct at Pace where I graduated from!

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