Be the Duck

One of my favorite resolutions is to “be the duck.” This is a resolution not reserved solely for New Year’s Day or a New School Year—it’s one that we can use every Monday, or even more frequently than that if we need it.

Being the duck means we don’t take things personally.

We’re able to remove ourselves emotionally from the drains of our work.

As a building principal, I’m often the recipient of, shall we say, less than polite words. Students get upset at discipline or directives. Parents get riled up about policy or go into “Mama Bear” mode, protecting their kids.

Staff get cranky about new initiatives and the burdens of this profession. At times, some of these folks, in their heated anger, say some pretty hurtful things and toss some pretty sharp verbal knives my way.

When I’m the duck, I let it roll right off my back. The kids aren’t really upset at me, they’re upset because their choices landed them in an unpleasant place. The parents aren’t really riled up at me, they’re riled up because something has interfered with their child’s rights or their perception of their child’s healthy upbringing. The staff members aren’t really cranky with me, they’re cranky because this is a tough job and not everything goes as smoothly as we’d like. It happens.

The good news is equally simple: We’ll get through it.

We’ll get over it. We’ll get past it. We’ll move on. I, as the building leader, must model that reality—so I’m the duck, I embrace the passion from which the comments originated, and I steer our work toward a common understanding, a common goal, or a common strategy for moving on. And the sun will shine another day!

Post submitted by Pete Hall, principal of Shaw Middle School in Spokane, Wash., and recent author of Building Teachers’ Capacity for Success and Lead On! Motivational Lessons for School Leaders. Pete was ASCD’s 2005 Outstanding Young Educator Award recipient.


  1. Thank you for this post! It is a refreshing reminder that most negative attention we receive (either from students or parents) is a result of frustration. I know the post was geared towards administration, but I can relate to the context. I teach 6th and 7th graders mathematics (to the labeled “underacheivers”), and I always need to remind myself most of the negative comments I hear from them is about frustratations towards math, not me personally. They are at an age where they don’t think before they speak and often, transfer the responsibility from themselves to other people.

    Thank you!

  2. It is perfect time to make some plans for the long run and it’s time to be happy. I have read this put up and if I may just I wish to recommend you some interesting things or tips. Maybe you could write next articles relating to this article. I desire to learn more things approximately it!


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