So I took the plunge this year and decided to jump into school administration. I still teach and I am a department head, but my new role is as the assistant to the principal. Essentially, I am the assistant principal in my building. I have a number of different responsibilities ranging from dealing with student discipline to administrative oversight of procedures and teachers. What helps is my unique prospective and insight into my organization having had worked in it for going on 7 years in various capacities. Combine that with my new position, in addition to my expertise in the classroom, my position tends to be a bit more stressful than anything else … I am a trusted resource. I get asked about everything; from the mundane to the most imperative; important questions and questions that are more common sense than anything else. And take a guess on who asks the most questions; who else but the darling teachers of my school.
I may have said this before, but we teachers (and I say we because I am still a teacher regardless of my new role) are a special breed of individuals. Along with the other many endearing qualities we have, we are also tend to be whiny, bitchy, annoying, attitude laden, entitled, selfish and elitist. Some are quick to use these terms to describe students and administrators, but those individuals should really look in the mirror because these apply to us teachers as well. Some teachers argue that if they are any of these, it is because they are passionate about teaching and they love their students, however,many times that is tongue-in-cheek argument. Some would say that I am generalizing and bashing teachers on the whole; my response to that is that sometimes the truth hurts. However, there is a reason as to why teachers are the creatures that they are and a portion of the responsibility rest on administrators and their lack of support.
Moment of the Week
Here are some of the teachers that I’ve been working with since the beginning of the school year, some of these individuals are people whom you may be familiar with – one of these characters maybe even be you.
- The Self-Absorbed: This teacher is the one who is aware of their colleagues but only it conflicts with their own needs. Everything concerning their classes and course work is top priority and at times, at the expense of their colleagues and logistics that make sense for the entire building. When you please this teacher, they are the best teacher in your building. But when displeased, they can be the biggest pain in the butt.
- The Complainer & Whiner: For this teacher, everything is an issue to complain about and there is no complaint not worth complaining about. Everything is a problem and you wonder if you could ever make this person happy. And if you don’t respond to a complaint fast enough, they will complain to your boss about you. The ironic thing about the complainer/whiner is that other teachers and students will complain and whine about this teacher.
- The Challenger & Know-It-All: This is the teacher who is good for telling you what you are doing wrong, how to fix it and how they’ve got it all figured out with regards to their classroom and their day-to-day functions. They won’t volunteer to help with anything, but they’ll volunteer their thoughts any and every time you are in their vicinity.
- The Absent-Minded: This teacher falls short every time when it comes to knowing what to do…they always have a question about what to do. They ask you questions about what they need to do so much that when they see you in the morning, the phrase good morning isn’t the first thing that come out of their mouth; they start every conversation with a question. Using one’s own common sense isn’t instinctive. However, making sure your ass is on the line over theirs is.
- The Loner: This teacher can be a relief, because they tend not to bother you with pointlessness, but then again they can be very dangerous – no teacher should be left in isolation and even if a teacher is a good teacher, being in isolation isn’t necessarily good. This teacher tends to want to be left alone and they may not respond well to directives that are meant to foster teacher collaboration.
Lesson of the Week
I’ve dealt with all of these teachers in some capacity this week. It has been challenging at times, yet no ‘monster’ is created in isolation. There are conditions that create such creatures. Some folks are just quirky and naturally pains in the butt, yet a majority of teachers just want to be good at their craft. In my new role, I am reminded that administrators can help cultivate teachers to either feel empowered or obstructed.
Whenever someone tells the story of Frankenstein, we tend to concentrate on the monster as the menace; the individual that needs to be dealt with, but if Dr. Frankenstein hadn’t created the monster to begin with, there wouldn’t be a monster problem. The same is true with respect to teachers who are more problematic than powerful. We (administrators) don’t always create the conditions to make teachers their best selves. When administrators fail to support teachers professionally, when administrators don’t provide teachers with structure, organization and are not accountable for their responsibilities, when administrators are not honest and forthright, teachers become nervous, insecure and they go into survival mode. When teachers are in survival mode, you come in contact with a lot of the personalities I laid out earlier.
School leaders cannot change personalities; however they can help ease the eccentricities of their teacher personalities by empowering them. We hold teachers accountable for student achievement… someone should be accountable for teacher achievement; especially since everyone is so demanding of them.