“Administrators don’t care about real results, they only care about graduation rates and looking good.”
“Our principal will be gone in a few years. This is just a stepping stone to an administrator’s job at HR like all the ones before him.”
“My assistant principal is clueless. He never taught my subject. Why does he think he can tell me how to run my classroom? What does he know?”
“I just can’t stand their lack of consistency. Either enforce the rules that are in place or don’t. I wish they’d make up their minds.”
“Don’t they know all the responsibilities we have? I don’t have time to write my lessons exactly how they want.”
Many of us have heard comments like those mentioned above. Many of us have even said our fair share of them or more.
What we say and how we act matters. Expressing concerns in a non-constructive manner is destructive to the learning environment we are trying to create. Furthermore, the way in which we carry ourselves, positively or negatively, is impressed upon our students. If we want to promote future leaders of tomorrow, we need to act how we’d want our leaders to act, even if our leaders are not doing so.
Besides, continuing to act on our negative emotions only reinforces our apathy and cynicism towards education. This is not the road to becoming a master educator.
For years I have found myself falling into the trap of destructive negative thoughts like these. Regretfully, I have also acted on many of these thoughts which only added to the negativity that is prevalent in many of our schools. This was not the type of educator I dreamed of becoming. This was not the type of man I wanted to be.
So I asked myself. “How can I turn my negative thoughts and emotions into constructive action that will help empower fellow teachers, administrators, students and more?”
By remembering one fact…
…we are on the same team.
This fact put me in the mindset to start looking at decisions and policies from the point of view of an administrator. I began to ask myself what reasons my assistant principal, principal and even superintendent had for their decisions. I suspended any ideas that were negative and looked at the problem through the lens of “we are all trying to help students achieve,” because honestly, I don’t think many educators get into the business of education for personal gain and power. (Although it is not uncommon for educators to fall into the trap of believing if they had more power they could make greater change.)
I came to several conclusions on this matter.
Administrators and teachers both face pressures of performance and compliance. Failing to do either of these could result in the loss of our jobs. Most of us have families to care for and bills to pay. Losing our job is simply not an option for us. Unfortunately this can lead to decisions we all wish we didn’t have to make. I have heard teachers complain about having to change grades in their grade book in order to make administrators “happy” with their passing rate. I have also heard administrators complain about not being able to withdraw or fail students who have severe attendance issues because they are special education students. Administrators get just as frustrated as teachers do on very similar issues. Most of the time, there is nothing either of us can do about the situation.
Typically when a teacher makes a mistake or performs poorly it stays behind their classroom door. Maybe in a worse case scenario your department hears about it and your boss confronts you over the matter, but it usually doesn’t spread much beyond that unless teachers are gossiping.
When an administrator makes a mistake, the whole school knows about it. Furthermore, the community may even know about it. Every action that is taken or not taken at the administrator’s level is amplified. Sure administrators signed up for that responsibility when they took the job, but we should work to be supportive of one another instead of dog piling onto the faults and failures of our leaders. After all, they are human.
Often teachers will protest any change that an administrator wants to make. Is this the best way to act? If our students resisted any changes we wanted to make in the classroom how would we feel? Sometimes it is better to just go along with the game plan. At least if we follow along with our administrators requests we can accurately gauge the effectiveness of their plan. If we are fighting it the whole time we have no real measure as to whether or not the plan works.
This isn’t the only consequence though. Disobeying administrative directives can place administrators in a position where they feel they may need to reprimand teachers for non-compliance. Of course we all know this is not a good option as it leads to hurt feelings, a negative climate and a sense of disrespect amongst colleagues.
We must remember we are all on the same team. We all want student success and we all want to see each other grow in our profession and craft. When we disobey the directives of our administrators, it makes it harder for them to learn about what worked and what didn’t in the school. We should be taking actions that promote the further development of everyone in the building, including our bosses. So your boss wants to try the next educational fad and you think it’s ridiculous? Who cares! Do it 100% and let them take ownership for the results. It will allow them to grow and become a better leader! In the meantime, if you are strongly against it, communicate this privately to your administrator in a respectful manner.
In order to be fair and really see things from an administrator’s standpoint, you have to ask “Why did they make the decision they made? Why did they add more rules and consequences to our school, or start a certain initiative?”
Because teachers fail to take ownership of their schools.
Every new principal I’ve had or seen usually waits about 6 months to a year before making any real change to the school. They are patiently watching the school to see how the staff handles themselves before making any adjustments. This to me is the sign of a good leader. A good leader knows that an organization runs much better when the members of it are the ones with the power. However, if the members (teachers), fail to demonstrate competency or responsibility, then the leader has to step in and make changes. Not to get off track, but this also happens at local, state, federal and worldwide levels (Fractals). How do you think dictators are born? People give up their power and responsibility and cry out for someone with competency to come and “fix” the problem.
It would be great if teachers would take responsibility of their schools and make the changes that need to be made themselves but I think most schools are not healthy enough for this option to happen. That means that the only option left is an authoritarian style of leadership. If nobody will do what needs to be done, a strongman or woman will need to step in to do the job. This is why it is so important that each teacher becomes a master educator, so that we are ready to step up and take ownership of our schools when the time is right. Put simply, administrators come up with “schemes and rules” when teachers fail to take initiative.
Do not misinterpret this post as “teachers are always wrong and should always be submissive to their bosses.” This post was simply meant to gain perspective from our administrator’s point of view. If anything, taking the time to see things from their angle gives us time to pause and reconsider the situation. If we find that we are still against whatever decision they made, it is appropriate to stand up and do what we feel is right but keep in mind…
We are all on the same team.