Thursday, September 20, 2007

Teaching with Good Principals

One of my goals as a blogger is to create spin. Yes, spin. I hope to do so in a savvy, positive way rather than an obviously-indulges-herself-in-false-logic kind of way. Negativity and education can seem inextricable when we look around, whether we look in the newspaper, around the cocktail party or in the faculty room. In many schools’ cultures, there lives an “us versus them” attitude between teachers and administrators. “They” get paid more. “They” wanted out of the classroom. “They” don’t have to deal with what teachers deal with anymore. That may be true, but administrators also deal with stuff I don’t think about: Is the boiler at the right temperature? Will the union call for a strike? Did the booster parents stop arguing with the PTA parents? Are all the buses here? Newsweek’s “The Principal Principle” by Barbara Kantrowitz and Jay Mathews actually moved me to tears as I read its profiles of great principals around the country. So often in my classroom, I felt alone and anonymous, swamped by papers and student needs I didn’t know how to address. At times, I felt measured only by my students’ grades and scores. Often, my 150 or so students created more variables than I knew how to manage. Administrators deal with these same issues, at a much higher volume.

Good administrators put themselves between teachers and problems. Good administrators may not have a peer within the building. Good administrators ensure the safety and integrity of the school as a system. Good administrators have to pretend to like many more people than I have to as a teacher! Give me a minute to climb off my soapbox. Okay. Listen, I teach, but in the time I’ve been teaching, some of my teacher friends have climbed over the wall into the front office. I already know they’re good folk. I already trust them. The politics of many work places asks us to take sides, and when I was new, several factions sought to win my loyalty. Heck, several factions will always seek loyalty. Happiness as a teacher, however, stems from empathy not only for students, but for all the people within our system, which includes administrators. I’ve grown happier as a teacher since I’ve let go of thinking that no one who left the classroom can care about the classroom as much as I do. Just like I believe my students possess a variety of talents, I realize educators come in the micro-vision and macro-vision versions. My teacher blessing for all teachers out there: May your body feel rested, your mind feel at peace, and may your building be managed by excellent administration. Without their foundation, we’d get much less done…

co-posted on Between Classes: Living a Balanced Life as a Quality Teacher

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