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.