The Wejr Board

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Share Who You Are, Let People In

A family sharing a little bit of who they are… with me.

Sharing who we are and letting people in are so important to building trusting relationships with students, staff, family, and the community.

Yesterday, I was in my office gathering some things together after the bell had gone, when a kindergarten student, “K”, peered into my office and in the smallest,sweetest voice said, “Mr. Wejr, would you like to come and meet my dog?”  My first thought was that this was a child excited about her new dog and wanted to share it with people so I immediately (and excitedly, as I love dogs) said, “Sure!”

When I walked to the front of the school, not only was there a dog there waiting to meet me… but a BULLMASTIFF waiting to meet me!  Two years ago, we lost our beloved Ozzy to cancer.  This was such a challenging time for my wife and I as Ozzy was our life for so many years.  We still miss him every day and whenever I see a bullmastiff, my stomach fills with excitement and my mind fills with great memories of our big bear.

I said to K’s mom, “Oh my… a bullmastiff! My favourite breed in the world! Did you know this?”  She then let me know that she had walked with her dog to school to pick up K and there was a group of parents at the other end of the school.  When they saw the bullmastiff, they told her that she had to take her to meet Mr. Wejr!

When Ozzy was diagnosed with cancer, I was very emotional but I actually mentioned it at an assembly and shared much of his final months/days with people through social media.  As hard as it was, I let people in.  Staff reached out to me.  Students continually asked how Ozzy was doing and always were there for hugs.  When we lost Ozzy, inspired by words from my buddy George, I wrote a blog about losing our “little” guy and celebrating the life of Ozzy.  Staff and families of Kent School, along with many people online whom I have never met, read the post and reached out to me with empathy and care.

I think too often we feel that we should hide our personal stuff from work.  We hear (especially on social media), “keep the personal and professional separate”.   I know that we need not share ALL our personal stuff but what if I had not shared any of the love and struggles we shared with Oz?  What if I kept stories of who I am as a person outside of school completely private?  Would I still get moments like the one that happened yesterday?

I strongly believe that, as educators, we need to share who we are.  Put ourselves out there.  Let people in.  Be more vulnerable.

I don’t meant that we need to do this solely through social media and I don’t mean we need to just share our tough times.  We need to be comfortable with sharing more of our personal side – the moments of joy, sadness, success and challenge.  As a principal, there is nothing I love more that hanging out, playing and chatting with the students every recess and lunch. I get to share a little bit of who I am and I get to see a little more about who they are.  My students check out photos of my family on Instagram and constantly ask how they are doing.  I also really enjoy the informal dialogue with parents and staff at the end of the day.  I love it when a parent or staff member comes to tell me something about an event or topic which they know I can relate (ex. dogs, toddlers, books, sports).  When we do this, we humanize us.  We move from Mr. Wejr: the principal – to Mr. Wejr (or Chris): the person, the teacher, the husband and father, the sports fan… and the guy who would love to meet my dog.

When staff, students, and families see us for who we truly are, the relationships change… the conversations change… and the moments change.  

Thank you to K and her mom for taking some precious moments out of their time together to share a little bit of them in a moment with me… and their dog.

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18 Responses to Share Who You Are, Let People In

  1. Johnny Bevacqua says:

    Good stuff Chris and your right, vulnerability help foster relationship. Of course we always need to mindful of personal and professional boundaries when dealing with students, parents and colleagues. I get frustrated when policies and protocols are created in a reactive way that undermine vulnerability and healthy relationship building. For example, I have cone across social media use policies for teachers that are so prohibitive they become counterproductive. Thanks for sharing buddy.

    • Chris Wejr says:

      Well said – yes, connecting with students takes common sense but also some modeling and direction of what is appropriate. I agree, some policies are based on fear of single incidents that have occurred but end up punishing and hindering relationships with the school community. As always, thanks for engaging!

  2. Brad Hagkull says:

    Excellent stuff Senor Wejr. A colleague of yours, (and a prof of mine) once told me, “In Real Estate, it’s location, location, location. In Education, it’s relationships, relationships, relationships.” Wise words. This was hammered home to me as a student teacher when I told a story about my family during an observation. My mentor told me that by simply opening up a part of my life, I had every eye on me. The story was relevant, but more importantly, it showed a side of me the students didn’t know. There certainly is a line – and as professionals working with young people, we need to know where that line is. But sharing a bit of our own lives often gives those around us the courage to do the same. Thanks for putting together such a timely reminder.

    • Chris Wejr says:

      Hey buddy – Stan is a wise man and helps me a ton. As I was reading your comment, I thought back to the first time I met you – at your UFV presentation of your portfolio. I could not tell you what you said about education (although I remember thinking, “this guys gets it”) but i vividly remember the stories you shared of your family. Team Hagkull stood out and I knew I had to get to know you personally and professionally. So, I think because you let us in that day, it caused us to eventually form a closer professional relationship… rootbeer float soon? :-)

      Thanks for adding the dialogue… not go blog some more! ;-)

  3. Lynne D. Wejr says:

    That is a great sharing of your thoughts about this moment… it must have been so hard for you…. as well as so great! That bull mastiff looked so much like Ozzy. They certainly picked the right person to show their dog to… what a great moment for you.

    • Chris Wejr says:

      Yes, there definitely was some mixed emotions – especially because there was another dog nearby and the way this bullmastiff responded was just like Ozzy. Still, such a great moment with a family of Kent!

  4. @mizwooly says:

    Thanks for sharing Chris. Students want to be taught and led by people they can identify with. Shared experiences so often develop into shared learning. I think that is why it is so important to foster school culture alongside learning.

  5. Tia says:

    Hi Chris,

    I could agree more. It is important to share who we are. This is so important for the connections we make on a daily basis.

    You wrote, “When we do this, we humanize us. We move from Mr. Wejr: the principal – to Mr. Wejr (or Chris): the teacher, the husband and father, the sports fan…”

    I would add that we move to the PERSON and not just the PRINCIPAL. If people can make those connections and find ways to understand us as people, then that is when true relationships can be fostered. That is when our conversations become meaningful. That is when any disagreements or challenging times become opportunities to understand one another better (instead of a fight).

    Love this post, Chris!

    Tia

  6. Hugh McDonald says:

    Powerful Chris! Connections are the basis for positive relationships. Meaningful relationships are the foundation of an awesome school and the force behind a positive & trusting culture. This is something I learned from my friends on twitter and is the reason why I share more of me with my colleagues who are & aren’t on social media.

    Thank you Chris for sharing this beautiful moment! It reminds me to share more of the stories I experience.

    Hugh

  7. Bill Ferriter says:

    You got that right, Pal. I still remember you writing about Ozzy. It was one of those moments that I saw you as something more than a collection of ideas on a blog.

    And that’s an important leadership lesson: People don’t follow ideas. The follow individuals. It doesn’t matter how right you are. What matters is how many people believe you are right — and faith in a person is built when others see you as who you really are beyond the programs that you push.

    Thanks for sharing this. Good bit.
    Bill

  8. Joan Young says:

    Thank you for this beautiful story of the power of connection. Your post reminded me of the day when my daughter, in her 20’s, came to my school to visit for the afternoon. My students asked her questions, made cards for her, and wanted me to know how much they enjoyed meeting her. You are so right, Chris: we need to share who we are and let others see our human side.

  9. Aviva (@avivaloca) says:

    What a wonderful post, Chris! I completely agree with you about “letting some of the personal in,” and it was actually people like you and George that encouraged me to do so. I’ve shared some of the happy and sad moments in my life on my blog, and I’ve even shared some of my struggles as a student. I’ve seen that this really does help foster stronger connections both online and in person.

    Thank you for reminding us about the importance of this! How do you encourage others to do this? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

    Aviva
    http://www.weinspirefutures.com

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  11. Carmela Ianni says:

    Hi Chris –

    I really connect to your writing – especially this one. For a long time, I didn’t feel comfortable putting myself out there and sharing my thoughts, but as I read more blogs like yours, I find encouragement to keep sharing, and to personalize my writing. I’ve always done that with students – now I’m trying to do the same professionally. Like you said, we need to humanize ourselves. Thanks again for another great post, Chris!

    Carmela

  12. rbacal says:

    Great stuff, Chris. It’s really easy to fall into communicating from one’s ROLE, teacher or principal, to the other person’s role, parent. When you self-disclose about yourself, the doors open up. There’s a good body of Psych. research on this (Jourard and self-disclosure) so not only does your post make sense intuitively, but it’s also supported by the research.

    Robert

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