- Why The Fight Against Critical Race Theory is Rooted In America History - June 11, 2021
- Got Discipline? (Charter School Diaries) - January 28, 2014
- Educators Must Avoid Isolation (Charter School Diaries) - October 28, 2013
- Parents, Teachers, and Conflicts of Interest (Charter School Diaries #28) - October 14, 2013
- Administrative Frankensteins (Charter School Diaries) - September 30, 2013
- New Year, Same Song (Charter School Diaries) - September 23, 2013
- Graduation! (Charter School Diaries #25) - July 15, 2013
- Teacher Turnover (Charter School Diaries #24) - July 8, 2013
- The Masses, the Multitude and the Disciples (Charter School Diaries #23) - July 1, 2013
- Schools and Prisons Are About Solving a Labor Problem - June 14, 2013
Week – 2/25 – 3/1
What do you do when you’re a teacher and there is poor instructional leadership capability amongst the administrators within your building or within your district? Usually, if you are in a school and/or district where there is a lack of instructional leaders, there is an overabundance of procedural leaders – but what happens when the procedural leadership is slacking? Then what? For many teachers who suffer in such conditions, they often get turned down, turned out and sent in circles by administrators who themselves are running in circles. Those teachers then get burned out because they are asked to do way too much with little or no support to help them accomplish the goals of the school and/or district – goals that often change with every change of the wind. After 1 to 2 years, those teachers either leave that school and/or district or they leave the profession altogether. Unfortunately, many of those teachers are really good teachers. What about the mediocre and bad teachers you ask? Do they leave? Sometimes, but not likely because for many of those teachers the paycheck and benefits attached to the job mean more than doing a good job and so they tend to stick around. While such cases happen all over the country, more often than not, they happen with a greater propensity in urban schools and urban school districts, and so for urban teachers, how do they thrive in an environment they simple wish to survive while in?
Moment of the Week
Our school district has two high schools and I teach social studies at both schools so I am responsible to two principals. At our more populous high school, our principal, let’s call him Mr. J, is one of the nicest people that you could ever meet. We’ve had our run-ins with one another, but they’ve always been constructive and for the sake of the students. I had to speak with him regarding a matter and I went into his office. When I saw him, he sounded completely different from how he looked. He sounded passionate, vibrant and ready to take on the world. However Mr. J looked worn down, beaten up and left for dead. The school year has indeed taken its toll on him and unfortunately, Mr. J is a first year principal. He was thrown into the position: he was the vice principal of our high school and was left to fill the gap when the former principal left three months into the school year. So we have an individual in leadership that wasn’t ready to take the reins.
As a result, he’s never received the opportunity to institute his vision for improvement because he was learning on the job, he was pre-occupied with handling discipline issues and he had too many people telling him what he should do, from educational consultants to the superintendent and even the board president; he never found his voice. A consequence of all of this is that teacher morale is worse than it has ever been at the school. The school already has a disturbing rate of teacher turnover and I believe that trend will continue into the future. As I walked out the door of his office, Mr. J encouraged me that all would be well and we’d make it through the year. I couldn’t help but feel a bit skeptical as to whether or not he’d make it through the school year.
Lesson of the Week
If you are not ready, you are not ready. Mr. J is an accomplished teacher of 8 years. He has his masters in educational leadership. He has been a vice principal for the last 2 years at our elementary and high schools and he has done great work assisting the principals in charge. But just like the job of an offensive or defensive coordinator is different from that of a head coach in football, the same is true with respect to a vice principal and principal in the school. Being great at one position doesn’t guarantee that you will be great in another position, whether in football or in education and we have to be better judges of our talents, skill sets, and abilities. There are some teachers who have been in the classroom for their entire career spanning 20 to 35 years. They’ve recognized that they are better suited for the classroom – I admire and appreciate individuals who are real with themselves and are transparent about their strengths and weaknesses. There are some individuals who are born to lead in the capacity of school leadership and they will get their opportunity, but only when they are ready should they take the reins. Some will argue that you’re never going to be completely ready and that maybe true; however, there is a difference between not thinking you are ready and actually not being ready.
Maybe Mr. J thought he was ready. In my humble opinion, I don’t believe that he was ready. That doesn’t mean that he cannot and will not be a great principal one day, it just means that this wasn’t his time. We all have to ask ourselves regardless of what position we are in: teacher, administrator, counselor… are we ready? Jumping into a role without being ready means more than your own failure. It also means the stunted growth and potential failure of all those under our supervision, influence and direction. People often get into education because they have a desire to give back and/or help others. But in education, we have to remember that it is not always about us as individuals. It is a bitter pill to swallow to decline that teaching job or prolong your move up the ladder, but when you are not ready, you are not ready. My desire is to know when I am ready for the next challenge and to be honest with myself when I am not.