The job of being a School Leader is complex. Not only do you need to make difficult decisions, but you are also privy to a lot of sensitive information, and about a lot of different people. Despite the array of challenges of being a Principal, it was often this sensitive information that would keep me awake at night. Sometimes it was information of a professional context, and at other times it was personal.
What I always struggled with, was the moral dilemma; what should I do with this information, and should I share it or keep it to myself? I’m not talking about a disclosure that requires a mandatory report; I’m talking about day-to-day conversations or information that can either explain a person’s behaviour or leave you wondering if they are ‘ok’.
Working through these situations, I’d often start with the ‘why’.
Did someone tell me because they wanted to get it off their chest, or did they share it because they wanted me to help? By telling a trusted colleague, am I adding another layer of support for the person, or am I breaking their trust? In lots of ways, there is also a link to feedback here. Do I need to give honest feedback, albeit what they may not want to hear, or do I soften the feedback because I like the person and I want to support them?
Or, it was when critical information was shared with me about a student and their family? Is that information just for me, or do all teachers need to know?
These are just a couple of the many moral dilemmas that we face daily. ‘Do I share’ or ‘don’t I share’? It’s often a blurry line that I’d always approach with trepidation. Complex situations would often have no right or wrong answer, so where possible I’d always endeavour to use these questions as a guide:
- What’s the potential harm caused to the people involved if this goes wrong?
- Am I protecting the person or avoiding the problem?
- Is there a way that I seek their permission to share this information?
- Morally, am I doing the right thing?
To put it in layman’s terms, the question can be as simple as ‘will I be comfortable that I can I sleep tonight knowing that I made the decision for the right reasons?’