I had a bit of a knock-down, drag-out with a close friend of mine a couple of weeks ago regarding principals. Without going into gross and discriminating detail, we were discussing teacher professionalism. Since we both entered teaching having come from “real jobs” we tend to share the idea that your job is to do your job — the contract is there to keep the job from controlling your life. However, the end goal is (and always should be) making the school community better, and helping the awesome human beings who enter your classroom reach full potential.
However, on this day, her response (which she’s said before) was, “That’s what your principal’s job is. That’s why she gets paid the big bucks.” Being me, I retorted that this attitude was pure bullsh*t. No boss, no matter how effective, can be everywhere at one time micromanaging his/her faculty. Furthermore, we’d all be PISSED if a principal did. That said, the assertion stood. If my principal was worth anything at all, she’d be making sure that everyone did his/her job by watching them ALL THE TIME.
Now if I’d already considered that being a principal was a pretty thankless job, this cemented that belief.
I’ve worked under some pretty incompetent people in my life. Most should NEVER have made it to management at all, but we know it’s often not what you know but who you know that makes that choice. I worked at Farm Bureau Life Insurance under someone who was a terrible boss. She’d have you write down when you were going to take vacation (it HAD to be determined a year in advance) and then be write-you-up mad when you didn’t come to work. Honestly, she had NO CLUE who was taking vacation when despite the calendar. Worse, you could be bumped by “seniority” even though those employees got to pick their vacation times first. It was crazy insane and just plain bad management. Just so you know, she was NOT the worst boss I’d ever had.
Despite poor management, I still knew to show up to work on time, stay in my cell (mostly), do my job, and try to make things better. I didn’t love the place AT ALL; however, no one needed to tell me what to do. By the time I was done working there, I knew most positions save for those requiring complex directions or calculations and often did them. Yes, I was a paid level 12 taking on work of a level 17 and not being acknowledged. Then again, bad attitude and not good at sucking up. You learn (or in my case, not).
None of my previous jobs prepared me for some of the weird, blatant, bizarre and professionally inappropriate behavior I would run across in teaching. I understand when people are worried about low-end schools and who is teaching at them. Along with 80% of the staff who are running as fast as they can doing what they can to make a difference are 20% who end up putting ALL teachers to shame. An excellent AP, Jamie, once recommended that, upon entering your classroom each day, think to yourself, “How would I teach if 60 Minutes had a hidden camera in my room?” She had a point. Why? Because we had teachers (or substitutes) show up to work late, drunk, and dressed like 12-year old. We had teachers on their computers the entire class or on their cell phones. We had teachers who sat and read while the class did their assignment. We had teachers who showed movies on Fridays because they had worked hard all weeks. This was at a FAILING school.
Of course the first thing is, “Where was the principal?”, and I can be on board with that to a point. The principal and her APs needed to be in EVERY classroom EVERY day to see what was what. However, in running a school it’s not always possible for the administrators to do that. Administrators have meetings to attend, discipline to attend to, evaluations to do, real room visits (not just stalking the evil geniuses who are there to take pay and undermine our system), budgets to balance, kids to connect to, and yard supervision. Oh, and they listen to us whine. Quite frankly principals have jobs too. Babysitting their faculty shouldn’t be part of the description.
I’ve always wanted to design my own school from the ground up; however, I’ve never wanted to be a principal. I don’t take BS from a kid, I can’t imagine hearing the same whiny, woe is me, it’s not my fault attitude from an adult. I’d be fired.
I’ve worked with a number of principals — some good, some not. Even when I didn’t respect the person, I never wanted his or her job. You know why? Because it’s thankless.