The standard you walk past…

I picked up rubbish today and as soon as I did there were 6 pairs of hands flocking to help me – without having to say a word.

A couple of years ago we had a visit from some Australian colleagues to look at how we used our learning management system. When people visit our place we believe that you take us as you find us. As we were walking around the school I bent down to pick up some litter. One of the visitors mentioned that he had recently seen a piece by an Australian military leader, Lieutenant General David Morrison, on Youtube that was full of amazing quotes especially this one…

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept

It is a catchy phrase that really caught my imagination as it resonated with a fundamental mental model I have around walking the talk. It is a phrase that has stuck with me and I find myself repeating it to staff and to students. It can be used on so many levels but to me hits at the heart of personal responsibility and moral courage.

Our visitor commented that it was nice to see the principal bend down to pick up litter and that this very act speaks more to others than telling children to pick up their rubbish. It is true. Children are the best double standard detectors as they are always watching and effective teachers know that. We are always on show!

Now this is a handy phrase to use with kids but what standards do we walk past in relation to our professional lives and interactions? What actions do we deem acceptable due to the lack of moral courage when we are in situations that require someone to speak up? I applaud Lieutenant General David Morrison when he spoke about people who have difficulty upholding the shared values of the organisation “if you don’t like them (the values) then leave” This took me back to a couple of conversations in my leadership career that have opened with the following statement…

“could you remind me why we are paying you a salary to undermine and subvert the work we have agreed to do as a school…”

So what standards do we walk past? I know I walk past some… I sometimes think “Is that a hill I am going to die on today?” But in doing so am I condoning and indeed reinforcing that very behaviour or action?

Moral courage… I must ponder what I can see myself walking past and better still gather data from those who see me walking past things!

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