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No Public Tears

“It was an awful conversation, “ a superintendent friend of mine said. A department head had come into her office and blasted her for one thing after another. It was harsh and it was personal.  “I kept my cool and didn’t let her get to me while she was there, “ my friend confided.  “But after she left, I cried.”

 “No public tears?” I asked.

 She nodded.  “No public tears.  I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction.”

 “No public tears” may be the female equivalent of “Never let them see you sweat”  although I don’t know whether public tears would be more damaging to a female or male superintendent.  I never wanted anyone to see me sweat either.

 “No public tears” was the mantra I learned early in my administrative career.  After a particularly nasty grievance in which the district finally prevailed, the employee in question stormed into my office and slammed an envelop on my desk.  He stormed out and I opened the envelope.  It was a long diatribe against me and the district and my board was copied in.  But I caught my breath at the last sentence:  “I resign effective 12/31.”

I closed my door and called a friend who had been a confidante all through the long battle.  To my surprise, I started to cry as I began telling about the letter. 

 “So how does it end?” he interrupted.

 “He quit!” I said.

 “So what are you crying about?” he asked.  “Forget all the other crap.  You got what you wanted.”

 I stopped crying.  He’s right, I thought.  I got what I wanted.  

I need to toughen up, I thought, if I’m going to do this job.  And I did.  Private tears, maybe.  But absolutely, positively no public tears.

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