Writing my way through the school year!

Posts tagged ‘principal support’

Behind Every Great Teacher…

there is an excellent, good, fair, or just plain horrible principal!  My present principal is preparing to move to another school.  He will be missed.  He was not without flaws, but that is true of us all.                                                         

I have been teaching for 20+ years, and have worked under quite a few  principals.  I don’t remember all their names, but things about them stand out in my mind. 

My very  first principal was about to retire, and he didn’t care what happened in the school. The students were undisciplined, and the teachers sat  in the front office every morning, butts on the desks, drinking coffee.  Then he retired, (Thank goodness!), and was  replaced by Mrs.D, now she was a principal!  She turned our school around, but after a few years, she was promoted, and replaced by, I don’t even remember her name. I was with her for a year before I moved to DE.  Before I left,  she approached me,  and asked, “Are you moving because of me?”  Okaaay.

I couldn’t get a job in DE, so  I spent two months in Baltimore with a psycho principal who insisted that I write everything I was going to say in my lesson plans. Huh? I explained that I had been teaching for 15 years,and she responded, “Well, you’re new here.” 

 I got a job in DE,and  worked in that school for the remainder of the year. Let’s just say her personal life interfered with her job. I got a transfer and ended up in my present school, under Joe B.  Lovely person, not such a great principal. The parents called him Joe. I will say no more. Skip through two or three principals to my present principal, Mr.L., who has been a joy to work with the last three years.

Does having a good principal make a teacher’s job easier, absolutely!

Mr. L  was an open door principal, his door was rarely closed.

 He made sure that we had all the tools we needed to integrate technology in our classrooms.

He always let us know that we were valued and appreciated.(And not only on Teacher Appreciation Day)

He loved the children, and they knew he loved them!

He was supportive, he always asked, he didn’t accuse.

He offered constructive criticism, and allowed us to offer our opinions.

He laughed.

He was flexible, most of the time.:)

He brought out the leader hiding inside me, and for that I am grateful.

I am going to get a new principal, and I’m hoping she works out.  I hope she has some of the same qualities as Mr.L.  But you know what?  Even if   she doesn’t, I will do what all teachers do, no matter what kind of principal they have.  I will  continue to teach to the best of my ability.  But it sure makes the job easier when you have a great principal!

“Good Principals: What Traits Do They Share?”



A bout twenty years ago, when I was teaching in New York,  I was observed by an “administrator.”  I had about 4 years of teaching under my belt. I was asked how I think I had done, and I replied, “I think it went well.”  He smirked,  “Well, you must think very highly of yourself.”  I won’t go into how I handled that situation, but no violence or profanity were involved. 🙂

Fast forward to 2011.  You would think that after 26 years of teaching, observations would be easy. But no, I still get butterflies in my stomach.  I still feel this need to “perform”. I still feel the need to warn my children to behave because “they” are being observed.(You know they know better) My observation went well, integrating technology wows them every time, but it still made me think.

How can someone possibly know what kind of teacher I am by observing me, once a year, for about an hour? Administrators have so much on their plate, it’s rare that  they enter your classroom, unless you have problems. Many decisions about a teacher are based on these observations, and even if it’s twice a year, it’s still harsh.  I realize that if a teacher is really horrible, there will be  other indicators.  On your observation day there are factors that affect your performance. You might  have a “bad” class, or that day Sammy decided he was going to fight Jason, or the kids just didn’t get it, no matter what you tried.  And we know, there are inept, incompetent, teachers who know how to put on the dog and pony show.  I’ve known teachers who sit at their desk, all day, every day, but the day of their observation, watch out! I have been fortunate to have administrators who use observations for what they are, observations, a chance for compliments and constructive criticism. Unfortunately, many teachers are not that lucky.   I’ve come a long way since that observation in New York, but I guess I still have a little of that young teacher who heard, “You must think very highly of yourself,” lurking inside.

“Thin Line”

The other day a fifth grade student came in with a green bracelet with the words “I Love Boobies” on his wrist. The teacher asked him to remove it, he asked her why. She explained that it was inappropriate for the class and made him remove it.  The next day, he came in with it on again, she told him to remove it. He said, “My mother called the principal and he said I could wear it.” He wore it the entire day making sure he showed off his arm as often as he could.  When the teacher went to complain to the principal, he told her that because it was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it was a thin line that he would cross by asking the child not to wear it. Needless to say, the teacher was very,very upset. This parent, and the principal, not only undermined the teacher’s authority, but also gave this child, who is already insufferable, carte blanche to go to mommy and go over his teacher’s head! Wow! A thin line?  His bracelet didn’t mention Breast Cancer Awareness, it said “boobies.” He was showing it off to the boys in his class. And the parent? Her time will come when she can no longer deal with the monster she has created! They want to tie our pay to the students, when we’re not allowed to make decisions in our own classrooms? Please!

Come to Me!

When I was a kid,  if there was a problem, my parents went to the teacher. Well, there was never a problem with me, I was a “goody-goody.”  As a teacher during the 80’s and 90’s, the parent would voice their concerns, to me. However, there seems to be a trend now where the parents skip the teacher, and go straight to the principal, or God forbid, the DISTRICT! Yesterday, I received an email from my principal,” Ms H, Jane’s mother (names have been changed to protect the guilty) called and would like you to call her and explain the grading system. ” Huh?  This parent is new to our district, so she might not be familiar with our grading system, that’s not a problem for me, that’s understandable. My problem is that she and I have sent emails back and forth where I have answered any questions she has had, why at this point did she feel she had to call my principal? And no, she never asked me about the grading system. Now understand, I send my students’ tests home with a checklist with the grading system on it. She signed the checklist, if she had a question, why didn’t she write it on the comments line?  Why didn’t she email me or call me?  Thankfully, I have a very supportive principal, because this seems to be a growing  trend.  One year I had a parent write a letter to President Obama(I’m not kidding) because her ill-mannered child couldn’t get used to the fact that there were consequences in my classroom. I believe it goes back to the whole idea of respect for the teacher  has gone out the window.  It’s as if, the teachers are not that important, which is strange, since we spend the better part of the day with their child. I feel as if it undermines my authority when a parent skips me and goes straight to the principal.  Why wouldn’t you tell me that Sam is bothering Trisha in the classroom? Why would you call my principal to tell him your child was upset because she couldn’t get on the SMARTboard today?  If  a parent  comes to me, and is not satisfied with the results, I say go for it. But it would be nice, if they came to me first. 

At our meeting today, my principal said, ” They skip you and come straight to me.”

Protect Yourself!

Today, I allowed  the little boy in my class who has been extremely disrespectful to me,push my button!  I asked the students to take out their homework, and as usual, he didn’t have his.  Instead of admitting he didn’t have it, he decided to play the , “I have it, but I have to look for it” game.  I always tell my students, “Stop looking for your nonexistent homework.”  Most of them get a laugh out of it, not him. He stormed to his locker, grabbed his book bag, and slammed it into his chair, all while I was teaching. I told my class, “Excuse me!”. I grabbed his book bag and told him to follow me into the hallway.  I bent down towards him and told him that his behavior is unacceptable and he needs to get himself together.  I went in the room, and he stayed. I sent a student to get him, he said, “No.” I told him to come in, he said, “No.” My principal came and got him. He returned an hour later, pleased with himself. At lunchtime, I had a note in my box written by the child with a note at the bottom from my principal that said, “Please see me about __________________.”  The child’s note said, “I got mad because I was looking to see if I broung(sic) my homework, and Mrs.M threw my bookbag in the hallway.”   Luckily for me, the teacher across the hall was having small group in the back of his room, and he saw the whole thing.  I didn’t speak to my principal yet, so I really don’t know what he wants.  He is usually very supportive, so I think he’s just trying to find out what happened.  But it made me think about what could have happened, or the spin this child could put on what happened, if this teacher didn’t witness my interaction with him.  I’ll keep that in mind the next time, and there will be a next time, he pushes my button! By the way, he didn’t have his homework.:)

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