13 December 2004: Cardinal Rules for Administrators (2 of 6)
Rule #1: Donít Blame the Teachers Okay, so at first glance, it may sound a bit like coddling. Maybe not the strongest place to start. But, I think youíll have to look hard for someone who has actually run a classroom well and thinks teaching is easy. Iím not here to remind you that teachers in this country are overworked, underpaid, underappreciated, and overextended. If youíre reading this, you already know about all of the administrative, paper-pushing job requirements for which we are not compensated. The point Iím trying to make is that in light of this, a good manager will always come from an attitude of compassion, support and encouragement. When poor attendance systems caused every classroom on our site to fail an audit of our records, the principal put it on the teachers to fix the problem. Fix the problem, she said, make the records match, and do it by the end of this week. We pointed out that this week was both second trimester report cards and open house, and could it wait for just a couple days beyond that? Her response? ďIf you all had kept the records you were supposed to up until now, you wouldnít have this work to do.Ē Hm. Thatís motivating.
14 December 2004: Cardinal Rules for Administrators (3 of 6)
Rule #2: Donít Pass the Buck This is really actually an extension of Rule #1, but Iíve got another story to tell about my principal. Iím going to call her Anna, just for the purposes of this column. So, itís the first week back from winter break. Anna has been our principal for exactly three days. We did not receive the weekly staff information newsletter this week, but we could all assume when and where we were to show up for our weekly staff development. So, Wednesday comes, we let the students go home forty minutes early, and we head to our meeting room, to be met with an agenda for a two-hour meeting. Some staff members protest. We didnít have warning that this was an extended day. We had them all scheduled through June, and this wasnít on the schedule. What about our carpools/childcare/personal lives? Anna shrugged. We were expected to stay. Because of budget restrictions this year, we will not be compensated. Of course, she canít force us, but neither will she change the agenda so that everyone can be present for decision making. ďThis is the way itís going to stay, because this is what I was told by the former principal,Ē she says. Hm. Thatís convenient.
15 December 2004: Cardinal Rules for Administrators (4 of 6)
Rule #3: Support Your Teachers Twice this year I have fought this battle with parents. They tell me to change the seat where their kid is sitting. I explain to them the ten reasons why I wonít. The first time, the reigning principal backed me up. We solved the problem using more costly but more positive efforts, such as communication skills and community building. Throughout the process, my relationships with parents, students and administrators were positive and productive. The second time, I did not experience support from parents or administrators before, during, or after the request. What was different, you may ask? This time, Anna completely and totally overrode my policy. Without bothering to discuss it with me, she walked into my classroom after school, informed me that she had spoken to a parent, and that I was to change the childís seating arrangement. Period. I respectfully protested, and tried to give some of my reasons for resisting this solution. I explained that if Marcus was respectful of Jolie, Iím sure they would not have the problems that they do. Iíd like to see Marcus behave to that standard before I explore other solutions to the problem of how Jolie annoys him. ďI understand that you disagree with me. Now do what I told you to do.Ē She leaves, and I cry. But only for a minute.
16 December 2004: Cardinal Rules for Administrators (5 of 6)
Rule #4: Donít Embarrass a Teacher Okay, I admit, thereís something I left out of that story. I wanted to save it for another rule. When Anna came in to make her demands on my classroom seating chart, I was in the middle of a planning session with the other fourth grade teacher. Poor Susan sat quietly, practically invisible, as Anna stood there and stole my professional credibility, belittled my judgment, and undermined my ability. You know the funny thing? Anna actually did break a rule with this one. As it turns out, my union contract says that any disciplinary action taken against a teacher needs to be done in private. Susanís presence in that conversation gives me grounds to file a grievance. Truth is, I havenít yet decided if I will. If I were to do it, it would not be out of vengeance or bitterness. Those feelings are already gone (replaced by overflowing astonishment). I only want to file a grievance if it seems to be what is best for the students. Will it take up much of my time? Cause me extra stress? Will it make it more difficult for Anna to become principal at another site? Will it encourage her to really unleash her wrath on me? Truly, sadly, I canít say which of these many possibilities are most important.
17 December 2004: Cardinal Rules for Administrators (6 of 6)
Even though my administrator seems bent on destroying morale, I love my job. Since the beginning of my career, I have been quick to point out to critics that public school districts have not disappointed me. They have only met my expectations in terms of red tape and incompetence. These things make my job more difficult, but they donít make me hate it. The truth is, I didnít go into education because I thought I would be appreciated and taken care of. More than anything else, my job satisfaction is tied to my students. When they grow, I fall in love with them all over again. Today I was asked if the US were the good guys or the bad guys in WWII. Just the fact that Bryan was able to consider that maybe we werenít always right on international issues puts him years beyond most fourth graders. Today I had six student experts leading small groups for the rest of the class to review key concepts in math curriculum. Today I saw students solve their own problems by using effective communication and respect. These are the things I love about my job. This is why Iím here.
teaching quote of the day
Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.
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