Ask For Permission Not Forgiveness 98:365

A popular belief is to do first and ask for forgiveness later. I have heard so many people spout the idea. Today I heard a principal (@ugafrank) stand out against that idea and give a very convincing argument. During a great voxer discussion with administrators and education leaders, he stood up against this concept while we were discussing making changes in our classrooms. Drew said, “I really struggle with the ask for forgiveness not permission as I think it is indicative of an unhealthy culture. I as a principal want teachers to feel 100% comfortable asking me anything.”

To me this spoke volumes not because Drew spoke out against what was gaining weight in the conversation, but because if the culture in your building is one where teachers, staff, administrators believe they should just do things they know are probably not “allowed” to do then you have a major culture problem in your school.

How do you fix that? Engage in dialogue, say yes when it makes sense or it is not going to do harm. When you say no, give reasons that also make sense (even if the reason is, “I am not allowed to let you do that because of regulations) the answer may not be one we like, but honesty will ensure that when your teachers are ready to make big decisions, you will be included in part of the collaborative process. Finally, be clear in your answers. If you really don’t want something done because of whatever reason, say no. I know I have gotten plenty of less than clear answers on questions that left it up to me to determine what I thought was right. If I am asking, it means I value your opinion or expertise enough for you to give it to me, so please share it!

As someone trying to get started in administration, I admire Drew’s point here: if what you are trying to do is best for kids, of course I am going to listen and discuss it with you, so instead of “just doing it” talk with me about it and maybe I can help make the idea even better.


7 thoughts on “Ask For Permission Not Forgiveness 98:365

  1. I’ve heard that a lot lately as well. Drew’s perspective does make a lot of sense. It makes you wonder what kind of relationships are going on when teachers are considering doing things that they might have to regret or ask for forgiveness later. I’m not an administrator, but as a parent I would feel let down if my own kids had the same type of thinking and did something on purpose thinking that asking forgiveness would completely wipe out their actions.

  2. Being a part of the voxer conversation added a little more insight but I agree with all sides. I am a rule breaker at times but know that if my admin is listening and following up in a timely manner, permission for forgiveness isn’t necessary. I believe as an aspiring admin that if communication is a priority and a must then teachers will feel free and will know that they are supported!

  3. I think “ask for forgiveness” comes from teachers who’s ideas get continually shot down without explanation. How does one fix a school culture where ideas are implemented from the top down and input is not valued? I know how my students are going to react if I don’t listen & value their ideas.

    1. I am not arguing with you in that respect, the point is, as a leader, if I have people just doing things that they could easily discuss with me, I have a problem with my culture. If there are ideas that should be collaborated, I don’t was to find out about you doing it later. It means I have to change and build better culture.

      1. The key word is seem. Start small, build up ideas with those close to you, then spread them. If they are research based, or just what is best for kids, show how they are best. MOST admins are open to pilot programs if it doesn’t break rules or require extra work for them. Love something? Ask to pilot it, that would be a good place to start!

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