One of the toughest rules I’ve had to deal with as an administrator is “Never make them guess what you’re thinking.” In other words, always explain your decisions and your vision as clearly as possible. The rule is an important one, because I’ve learned the hard way that students and teachers, in the absence of facts, frequently guess wrong: they will often assume that I don’t know what I am doing, or I have some selfish motive, rather than guessing the perfectly valid reason for the decision I’ve made.

This has been a hard rule for me to abide by, because I put a lot of thought into all of my decisions, and I hate having to take the time to go back and explain what I’ve done. It seems like a poor use of my skills: instead of moving forward with the next challenge, I’m stuck rehashing my train of thought on the last one — the past in slow motion — so that someone else can understand it.

In my ideal administrative world, everyone who works with me would do their jobs as well as possible, and assume that I am doing the same. Some students and teachers fit this — admittedly selfish — ideal, but others need to know exactly what I am thinking and why at all times. I have to avoid feeling like they are just gumming up the works with their questions and do my best to give them the explanations they crave.

I understand their concern – I have been very suspicious of Authority myself in the past. It’s easy to see Authority as Power. Now I see it more as Responsibility: when you are in a position of Authority, your decisions mean so much more. A small mistake can have severe costs, so you worry and worry over every decision before finally making a commitment. When people feel powerless, though, they can be justified in believing that those in positions of authority aren’t to be trusted.

So I’ve learned this transparency rule, although I’m pretty terrible at following it.

How does this rule interface with composition? While obfuscation for its own sake is generally unattractive to me, I usually like to give music the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes a composition has motives I can’t guess, and demanding that it fit my preconceptions isn’t beneficial to anyone. So I try to be a good servant, following the music’s orders.

After all, music has even less patience for explaining itself than I have.

Leave a Reply