About Jackie Parrish

I am a retired teacher who taught in middle school for 30 years. I have certifications in elementary education, reading, and math. I have spent most of my career teaching math to 7th and 8th graders in an urban setting. I have also presented staff development within my school and within my district. Although I am now retired I am still passionate about teaching math in ways that engage all students.

When teachers have administrative support that’s an ideal teaching situation, but the reality is that too often administrative support is not available. Thus, new teachers have the biggest problems and often leave the profession because of support of this. Whether you are a veteran teacher or just starting your career you will deal with administrators or are good, bad, or in-between as leaders. I am sharing some of my worst and best experiences with administrators in the hope that they will help you deal with your own situation.

The Year I Turned to Alcohol to Get to Sleep Each Night

I had been teaching for about 10 years when this situation arose.  I was teaching a semi-self contained class so students were with me four out of the six periods of class time. The group fed off of each other and had poor self-control hence there were fights and many verbal disruptions within students. My classroom was very small it was difficult to separate those who didn’t get along which caused me a lot of anxiety.

As someone who is only a social drinker, I became concerned when I began drinking every night to get to sleep. As a result, I asked the counselor to work with the most difficult students. She had a group sharing period for those who seemed to have the most emotional issues. This helped some but the stress was still making life difficult for me. The counselor and I decided swapping one or two of my students with those in my team members’ classes would make things better for everyone. My team members had agreed to switch students if we could get administrative permission.

It Was Time to Approach Administration

The counselor decided to approach the Assistant Principal to request the switch but instead of agreeing to the change Mr. Jones decided he needed to observe the class.

Mr. Jones came to my room a few days later and took a seat in the back of the classroom. His presence did not faze those who normally acted out. Fortunately,  I was able to keep these outbursts under control during that short amount of time. Later that day I was told by the counselor that the request to move a few students was turned down. Mr. Jones did not want the secretaries to have to go through and change records. His actual quote was “She has it handled.”

I didn’t get the administrative help I needed and struggled through the remainder of the year using alcohol to get to sleep at night.

What a Difference an Administration Makes

Several years later, the team encountered a similar situation. This time each of us had a student we felt needed to be moved. We each had one student in our advisories that did not get along with the classmates. We asked our Assistant Principal if we could each swap a student we had difficulty with for another one on the team. Mrs. Smith’s answer was yes as long as we kept the child’s records with our class so as not to cause unnecessary paperwork. Our problem was solved for now.

The Sociopath an Assistant Principal Coddled

James* was admitted to my advisory one March without his official record and I wondered if he was a disciplinary transfer because an 8th grade transfer so far into the school year was unusual. He seemed like a nice young man but I noticed he had some underlying behavioral issues. For example,  if I would tell him to stop doing something inappropriate he would insist that he hadn’t done it despite me seeing the behavior.

Returning to class one day, I saw that he had backed a very petite young lady into a corner and towered over her. She was a feisty girl and she was giving him back word for word but he continued to move into her personal space. I called out his name and told him to stop. He immediately denied doing anything wrong.

I decided to make a disciplinary report about the incident. I spoke with my teammates about the situation and while they had not seen anything of that magnitude they agreed he was a potential problem. After submitting the report to my assistant principal I waited to see what would happen.

Mr. Thompson spoke to James and returned him to my classroom.  He stated that James was a nice, polite kid who said that I had totally overreacted to what I saw. That was all Mr. Thompson was willing to do at the moment.

Heading to a Higher Power

My team and I knew that Mr. Thompson had just given James the green light to do as he pleased. His misbehavior intensified (fighting, talking back, etc.) and he continued to insist that he hadn’t done what each of us saw. A colleague made a referral to the assistant principal and it was also ignored.

The entire situation was resolved by our principal, Mrs. Costa, apologizing to us for not realizing there was a problem. She also made an appointment with the student and told him that she was handling his discipline herself.

Good Administrators are Gems

Even though most of my career, I had good administrative support, I still remember the situations that made me appreciate how valuable a good administrator is.

Administrator

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