“Santa blows up when it’s Christmas time!”

santa claus sitting on a bombThis lovely holiday sentiment is courtesy of our network administrator’s three-year-old daughter, Olivia.

While her dad assured her that Santa wouldn’t be eating too much, her parents also wondered what kind of anti-holiday images had slipped past their media firewall to produce that comment, and Olivia couldn’t explain herself very well.  The mystery was solved a few days later as they drove down their street, when Olivia pointed at a neighbor’s inflatable Santa saying, “Look, Santa blows up!”

While I don’t want to venture too far into this metaphor (images of Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote haunt me), I can’t help but think of so many miscommunications just like Olivia’s.  How many of us have made excited declarations, proposed innovations, suggested policies changes, shared well-meant intentions – and I’m thinking of education-related activities here as well as personal – only to have them perceived as expressions of secret evil?

An example that comes to mind is our journey into assessment data analysis and district-wide benchmark testing.  What those of us managing this process saw as exciting potential for nurturing achievement in every student, some sectors of our educator-community saw as a threat to autonomy and an insult to their practice.

Keeping the community network alive with patience and careful listening, just like for Olivia’s family, is probably the key to understanding how blowing Santa up can actually be a good thing.

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