When I had the opportunity to serve as a school leader, I was blessed to never have to experience a teachers’ strike. As far as preparation for a job a principal, I can’t imagine any university program or state department of education training that could prepare a principal for the tenuous situation she finds herself during a teachers’ strike.
The situation for the students of Chicago Public Schools is very sad. All the grown-ups have been struggling to come to any agreement on key issues, and ultimately, students lose precious days of education as this continued through the week. Principals have the responsibility to oversee any students who do attend school within a program provided (in this case, the Children First programs located at approximately 144 of Chicago’s schools) and the grown-ups who are brought in to work with the students. If a strike continues for more than a few days, principals need to make plans to provide structure and education for students on a longer term basis. Finally, principals are expected to publically support the district administration and the board of education. This expectation is in stark contrast to what good principals work to do on a daily basis – build positive relationships with all staff members.
I read in one of the many articles (Sawchuck, 2012) about the ongoing strike about a principal, Lee Jackson, who walked outside his building with a smile for his picketing teachers to ask how they were and if he could do anything for them. While still maintaining the program within his building, he continued to show a level of care and concern for his teachers that prompted genuine and mutual respect for people who have to be on “different sides” of this issue. I believe this is a perfect example of a principal demonstrating moral leadership and is more likely to have an easier time returning to “normal” upon his teachers’ return to work.
Sawchuck, S. (2012, September 11). Waiting game: Inside a Chicago ‘Children First’ school [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2012/09/inside_a_chicago_children_first_school.html.