Monthly Archives: February 2013

Feel Goods

In the past ten years or so, teachers and principals have really become scapegoats for the ills of education and consequently, the country. When I was a high school administrator, I did fully expect occasions of anger directed towards me (although not to the extent that I had realized actually what would happen).

Conversely, given the overall pervasive anti-educator rhetoric in the U.S. popular press, I definitely wasn’t prepared as a school leader for the positive comments I sometimes received from people in the school community. As I learned and prepared to be a school leader, I often reflected on the ways in which I could provide as many positive comments and experiences for teachers and students in my building, recognizing how important that was to morale and overall school culture. Until I received positive comments on occasion from students, faculty, and community members, I never thought about how important it is for educators in ANY role to experience that for their own efficacy.

Hearing the occasional thank you for scheduling common planning time, being considerate of a staff member’s personal needs, listening, being present in the hallways and classrooms, providing instructional support, or providing support for students in various ways really kept me going on those tough days, when I had to make a decision between bad and worse, endure a tragedy of sorts, or had to deliver bad news. I kept a file (electronic and manila) I called “Feel Goods” that I would occasionally go back and read on those especially tough days. I also currently have the unique experience of supervising principal and teacher interns, occasionally some in the school where I was once a principal and since people seem to look at the past through rose-colored glasses, I tend to get a chance to be humbled again by the positive comments from former students and educator colleagues. What a bittersweet feeling…. and how poignant to be reminded of what I did that was appreciated as I prepare future principals to work in schools.

Within the past 6 months or so, a few research reports have been disseminated describing the low morale and job satisfaction (i.e. the recently released MetLife survey results) for teachers and administrators. Educators do face tough times right now. In my preparation as a principal, I was not prepared for accepting the positive comments that also occasionally came in my direction. I hope that other educators (principals and teachers alike) are getting the occasional positive comments, as those are most definitely the best unexpected moments for educators serving as classroom teachers or administrators.

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Open Spaces

You might think by the title of this that it might be yet another blog entry about school safety.  Indeed, in many of the schools constructed (especially those that house older students) in the past decade contain too much open space; however, this entry is about a different kind of open space…. the kind that school leaders need to leave to allow in conversations for others to more easily share information with you.

How can someone be “prepared” to do this as a school leader?  It took me a couple of years into my administrative career to figure this out.  Leaving spaces in conversation that offer students and other staff members the opportunity to share important life events, important “news” from the student body that one might not otherwise hear, etc., takes practice and patience, which are two characteristics I lacked a bit as a young school leader.  Furthermore, how one leaves these open spaces in conversation will look different at each school building due to differing school cultures.  Ultimately, a school leader in a particular building must pay attention to everything in order to discern how to leave open spaces for conversation within that particular context.  Paying attention to body language, conversations, and classroom interactions are a few very important ways to do this.  Being visible, smiling and interacting with students in non-instructional settings (i.e. hallways, cafeterias, etc) will help a school leader in any setting to create the open space for students and faculty alike.  Plus, doing this models the type of behavior you would wish to see teachers demonstrate.

The current trend in education and especially from those OUTSIDE of education is to figure out how to quantify everything and use that data to inform evaluations of all educational professionals.  I would argue that there are deeper ways to look at all the different ways that teachers and school leaders impact a child’s development and growth.  In addition, this world requires more than academic growth.  This world requires (and will continue to require, even more so) the skills to interact with one another respectfully and to discern the importance of the kernels of good that exist within the overabundance of stimuli thrown at us each day.  Leaving open spaces in conversations allows the school leader to build that trust and community that will make other achievements for students and teachers slightly less difficult to achieve.

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