How Intimate Is Your School?

Intimacy might be one of those taboo words you might want to avoid but you can’t.

I’m not talking here about physical or emotional intimacy but working relationship intimacy within an organisation.

I take my inspiration for this blog from The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook by Senge et al (1994).

In this book about strategies and tools for building a learning organisation, Senge et al encourage us to consider the true meaning of intimacy.

They point out that intimacy comes from the Latin word intimatus which means to make something known to someone else – to notify or the willingness to pass on information.

In a collegiate school environment then intimacy is high because teachers collaborate and pass on their teaching tips and techniques, they share ideas and they advise, inform and support each other.

An intimate school is one where there are open, honest and positive relationships between colleagues. They know each other and what makes everyone in a team tick. They see the person behind the job title. As Senge et al (1994) say,

Members of an intimate team know each others’ preferences and predilections. They speak openly about what they believe, feel, think and aspire to be. They are skilled at balancing inquiry and advocacy.

Senge et al say that an intimate learning organisation isn’t about sharing secrets and knowing each other’s private lives in detail. This is about a team of people who share healthy professional conversations and respect each other as individuals with lives away from teaching.

Intimacy is characterised by a rich sense of involvement and supporting each other and that also means being vulnerable and allowing each member of staff opportunities to fail without judgement. They make known what it is they struggle with and need help to do. They notify their colleagues when things are going well.

Intimacy isn’t about “giving free rein to every emotional impulse” but it is about people telling each other how they feel and what concerns them.

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