Five Alarm School Fire


It was the worst nightmare realized.

A terrible fire at school. Flames everywhere. Tragedy abounding.

All in the midst of a monthly staff meeting.

Dialing down the rhetoric, and scaling back the hyperbole, there wasn’t really a fire. But there were problems. A few disgruntled staff members. some unhappy parents. A handful of students with disorderly behaviors.

As adults, sometimes we get stressed in our line of work, and we sound the alarm.

When these issues get discussed within the confines of a meeting, especially if they are our own pet struggles or obstacles, it is easy to inadvertently exaggerate the scope of a problem. We can break out the hyperbole, exercise embellishment, and pour a little gas on the conversation.

We mistakenly pull the fire alarm, when the truth is that there is no fire.

I admire the level-headed ness of our principal. He is a good listener. A team builder. He doesn’t over react to the panic in our voices. He doesn’t take offense when our comments might undercut the team dynamics he has worked hard to develop. Instead, he listens, flame retardant suit buttoned up, and calmly leads us forward.

Eventually, the smoke gets cleared, and we return to our rooms, ready to tackle the issues and obstacles with a refreshed vision and a clearer mind. But sometimes I’m left wondering about that pulled alarm. I’m wondering if our own internal smoke detectors need re-calibrating. Perhaps with the clocks moving an hour forward, we can change the battery in our detectors, and hopefully sharpen our senses, fine-tuning the acuity to recognize problems for their actual scope, size, urgency, and impact.

Sometimes where there is smoke, there may be no fire at all, but instead, a new opportunity for our learning.


5 thoughts on “Five Alarm School Fire

  1. Wow! Great post. I love the way you began with the photo and fire metaphor and morphed it into an opportunity for each of us to take a good hard look at ourself and “recalibrate” our internal smoke detectors and instead, look for a new learning opportunity. Thank you!

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  2. Pingback: I could write about… | Be Strong. Be Courageous. Be You.

  3. I wanna be that guy with the flame retardant suit all buttoned up, calmly leading forward. Your metaphor is a powerful one for the tendency to elevate upset to crisis. And you made me laugh.

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  4. Love the symbolism here. Glad that your principal is fighting those fires and keeping your school moving forward. Thought provoking post – I think I’m guilty of fanning flames at times…gotta keep that stuff in check.

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