As I run a very large dance and theatre school, with a staff team of 20, I often find, to my frustration, that I deal with disciplinary issues, either staff or pupil related, taking up a lot of my time and emotional energy. It effects my work as, primarily, a teacher of classical ballet. I say ‘primarily’ as that is what I see myself as – not as a manager/proprietor of a business. I struggle with the balance between the two, and the hectic schedule of running a business usually wins! I notice I internalise these problems, and, as a result, I am sure they inhibit my creativity and artistry in teaching, as I will often go straight from a tense meeting into a class.
A recent concern I have had to raise with a member of staff has, this morning, become enmeshed with me trying to fully understand what I should ACTUALLY be doing, right now, for this MA, getting the school uniform ready for the week ahead, housework, and constant phone calls from family members! I ended in tears convinced that I was wasting my time trying to do an MA!
Two cups of coffee, one cup of tea and a peanut butter sandwich later, and I have written the ‘issue’ in my journal, read up on “Strategies for enhancing learning from everyday experience” (Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning: Moon ), and “The Four Levels of Action and Reflection” (Productive Reflection at Work: Boud, Cressey, Docherty).
My initial off-loading into my journal helped me release some of the tension onto paper. I questioned my own handling of the situation, and asked myself why I struggle with confronting staff with disciplinary procedures. I decided to re-write the series of events using the terms ‘teacher’ and ‘pupil’, rather than names. This was immensely helpful, as the issue became objective.
I then wanted to turn it into a learning experience and so trawled through my books looking for supportive literature – hence the strategies and levels mentioned above! I now feel that a) by objectifying the teacher and pupil, I can see the situation much clearer and b) by reading, and applying these strategies, I have been able to create a plan of action.
I have learned that I can get stressed, and magnificate, difficult staff situations I have to deal with at work, and allow them to consume me. An emotionally exhausting occurence. Although I still have feelings of anxiety, I will carry out my plan of action, and then review and reflect on it.
I also realise I need a far more detailed set of rules/directives to fall back on when confronted with staff issues, on behaviour that is acceptable and not acceptable in the workplace. I shall find a time to make all staff aware of these, and make every effort to implement them when required, and utilise the Four Levels of Action and Reflection (Boud, Cressey, Doherty). I will also look at Schon’s ‘reflection-in-action’, to revise any procedures that ‘surprises’ might warrant. I will also look at ‘analytical diagnosis’ (Olsen and Rasmussen) of the situation.