Once there was a wizard who was well-liked AND respected. He led a group of wizards & witches who were all good at what they did: teaching people to fly on their broomsticks. Theirs was an important job, too – if you fail the flying tests, you will not get the license to fly. And flying without a license is a serious offence.
He was also a friend of the Soup Witches, and one day, over soup (naturally) he told them that he may need to leave the flying school.
“But why?” The witches were startled. “You love that place! You love what you do! You care about the people you work with AND the people who come to learn at the school!”
The wizard sighed at the witches’ indignant tone. “It’s no longer the place we all knew & loved.” Over the pot of herbal soup, he told them about a few head wizards & witches who had regularly been putting others down, ridiculing ideas that came from newer people (often in public, & very loudly) & demanding the school principal to get rid of any wizards & witches who displeased them. “I’m one of the chief teachers & I’m in a great spot to make a difference in creating the best space for my group to grow into a great team. I’m supposed to inspire the people who work with me, but it’s becoming harder to do so.” Said he.
“What’s making it harder for you to continue inspiring your team?” They asked. After a long pause, he answered: “How would you like it if you had to face head teachers & chief wizards who ignore you while talking to the person next to you, make cutting remarks to people you work with when in a group discussion & say nothing to you to your face, but as soon as the discussion is over, send owls* to you & your superiors, describing how incompetent you are & demanding explanations to why you are still employed there?” He sipped some soup and continued. “The moment the principal’s back is turned, the meanness comes out. It’s affecting my team too; I can see them dragging their feet as they come to work. What makes me sad is that the principal and many other head teachers, including myself, have been sending out messages to the whole school that we need to always sort out our differences and work together – treat each other with dignity – yet more & more of us now walk away from encounters with those few hostile people feeling awful, almost like being stripped of our self-esteem.”
The Soup Witches were puzzled, because they knew their wizard friend’s strong character. He would not give up easily to acts that sounded to them rather like kiddie-school bullying. But as friends, they also remembered that they needed to listen & encourage him to sort things out himself.
As if sensing their bewilderment, the wizard looked up from his bowl of soup. “You must think I’m such a weakling, don’t you?” As they hurriedly shake their heads, he waved them off. “Well, I think I am. I’m weak because I couldn’t help my own team cope with these hostile forces – & we’re just talking about 2 or 3 of these head teachers too, not many! But I must leave the place. I was beginning to be mean at home too. If my family hadn’t pointed it out to me, I wouldn’t have realized that I was bringing the poison home with me.” He said, with a catch in his voice. “What can I do to make things better?”
Long after the wizard had left, the Soup Witches huddled around their soup pot. “We can’t let him quit, not in a depressed manner like this,” one of them said. “The school is a great place – we learned to fly there!” Said another. “Surely there’s more to this than meets the eye,” said the third. “We must investigate.” They looked at each other & nodded. “Time to plan!”
And plan they did…
Next, Part 2: “These people are like kiddie-school bullies, only taller.”
*Owls are notes that are penned on parchment & carried to their recipients by – you guessed it – owls.