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You Don’t Always Have to Win

That is a difficult title for me to write. Growing up with two brothers, competition was a way of life. However, in education, always trying to come out on top can ruin relationships.

I hated this scene when I was a kid. I rooted for Geena Davis (Dottie) the whole movie. I found Lori Petty (Kit) to be overly whiny. So when Dottie drops the ball in the final game, allowing Kit to win the title for Racine, I was devastated.

As I’ve grown older, and rewatched A League of Their Own, I understand and appreciate Dottie’s decision (yes, it was a decision) to drop the ball allowing Kit to become the hero.

So why did she do it? She did for Kit, but she also did it for herself.

Throughout the film, Kit is fragile, anxious, and diffident. Without Dottie, she would have never had the opportunity to play in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Kit’s lack of self-confidence stems from living her life under the towering shadowing of her big sister. Dottie is well aware of this, because she sees it on Kit’s face… and Kit flat out tells her.

And what does Dottie have to gain from holding on to the ball? Sure, she costs her team the championship, but she could have lost her relationship with her sister. Seeing her husband safely return from the war, solidified that she had everything she needed, which did not include an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Championship.

When faced with winning or doing the right thing, Dottie chose to do the right thing, and won in the end.

Sometimes the stress of school builds to a point where students and parents are seen as enemies, not allies. It is at these moments when administrators and teachers sometimes make the wrong decision to “win” instead of doing what is best for students.

Every teacher has a late policy. It could be a school policy, a grade level policy, or a team policy. Often students sign contracts (parents too) at the beginning of the year stating that they read and understand said policies.

There will come a point during the school year when a student has a legitimate reason why he did not complete an assignment. That teacher will have a legitimate signed contract that shows the student understood the late policy and has now violated it.

What should the teacher do?

If they are currently viewing the student as the enemy, they may choose to dig their heels in and “win.” And why not? They have the signed contract to back their position.

But, if they see this as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship, they may choose to work with the student. Ultimately, creating a plan with the student to finish the assignment is a win for both the student and the teacher.

As an administrator there are times when you face similar scenarios with parents. A parent might have not completed the paperwork for their child to apply for Student Council, failed to pay the deposit for a class field trip, or missed the deadline to waive their child up to a higher math course.

Being the amazing principal that you are, I am sure that you sent out several reminders to parents about these events. You probably posted information on your website, tweeted out details, or advertised them through your PTA.

Should you stick to whatever information was shared like it was set in stone? Or do you need to bend a little bit? At the end of the day you know what is best for the child.

One might argue that once a deadline has passed, there is nothing that can be done. I think that is nonsense. In my experience there is almost nothing that can’t be done to accommodate for missed opportunities.

Helping parents, especially when they know that they made a mistake, is a golden way to unite the school and the home.

Dottie chose her sister over winning the championship. I hope you choose students over “winning.”

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