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Career Questions: Casual for a Cause

Tingley-021 color-1Q:  On Fridays in my school, teachers can wear jeans if they make a contribution to charity.  There is usually a jar on the counter in the main office with a sign denoting the week’s charity and people contribute whatever amount they want to – usually someplace between $1 and $5.  The charity for each week is determined by the office staff and approved by the principal.  Up to this point we’ve never had a problem and it’s been a win-win:  Teachers get to dress down and the United Way or the SPCA, for example, gets a moderate donation.

Here’s the problem:  Currently the small group of people deciding on the target charity have very strong views about which charities deserve our support and which don’t.  A couple of weeks’ donations even went to a church a few of them attend.  Some of us teachers have protested to the principal, and his response is to threaten to do away completely with what we call “casual for a cause” Fridays because he says it’s now become political. It’s discouraging that something so positive has turned into a controversy generating bad feelings between the teachers and the office staff.  Any ideas?

A:  It looks as if your school has become a microcosm of our national scene with everyone insisting on their own beliefs and no one willing to compromise for the good of the whole.  Here’s my suggestion:  a small group of teachers (just 2 or 3) should talk to the principal about setting up a list of charities for the remainder of the year that are neither religious nor overtly political.  I say “overtly” because these days some people can find something to object to in just about anything (see Bert and Ernie, for example).  It seems to me a case could be made that the teachers decide on the charities (with the principal’s assent) since they, not the office staff, contribute the bulk of the money.  You need to include the principal because he may have to defend your choice or even the whole idea of “casual for a cause” someday.  The list doesn’t have to be extensive; you can choose 5-10 charities, for example, and rotate through the list.  You can include some school activities if you wish (the band boosters or the French club or sixth grade step dancing classes if it doesn’t become another contentious issue). 

If the principal doesn’t agree with your suggestion, then you may have to scratch the whole idea, return to professional attire 5 days a week (a case could be made for that anyway), and make your own charitable donations to whatever charity you wish.  But it would be a sad commentary on our times if you can’t come to some reasonable solution to this problem.

On a brighter note, just to start your week off right and remind you of how great kids and teaching are, check out the brief video below:

 

  

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.