What are you Reading?: When Nice Won’t Suffice by Elisa MacDonald

When Nice Won’t Suffice by Elisa MacDonald 

Last week I had the opportunity to observe our Principal Residency Network (PRN)’s instructional rounds. We rotated through two schools where we listened to their leadership teams present their school-wide goals, observed their progress through classroom walkthroughs, and reflected on what we observed through the Atlas Protocol. What struck me the most was when we listened to Danira Ortiz, the Principal, Head of School at Nuestro Mundo Public Charter school, reflect on her experience receiving feedback from our PRN leaders. She shared how grateful she was for the feedback, and clarified why she chose to open her doors in September as opposed to June. She wanted the critical feedback at the beginning of the school so that her team could apply it to their practice and get closer to their goals. 

I loved hearing Danira reflect on the intention because it really modeled the mindsets underlying Elisa MacDonald’s “When Nice Won’t Suffice.” We need more leaders who are willing to “foster vulnerability-based trust” in order to get the results we need for all students. Too often, educators lose out on “rigorous collaborative discourse” when we prioritize protecting people’s feelings of comfort over challenging our thinking, beliefs, assumptions, and practice. This can happen in so many ways but for our leaders to interrupt these patterns of “nice,” MacDonald calls on educator leaders to recognize the signs, respond proactively as well as in the moment, and follow up. 

Jenny Li, CLEE Continuous Improvement Facilitator and Coach

To address the “culture of nice” that keeps people in the comfort zone, leaders must create a safe environment that honors critical feedback, while upholding the goal of collaborative discourse for improving student outcomes. If leaders continue to prioritize the culture of nice, they run the risk of undermining protocols for feedback and encouraging gossip. Let’s face it, educators crave honest discourse, even if they might seem uncomfortable. At CLEE, we push our participants to move themselves into the risk zone, where they can challenge themselves and grow as leaders for equity. As education leaders, keeping our learners and communities at the center of our work means we  simply can’t afford to be nice rather than give productive feedback.