The Interview

I really enjoyed talking to my assistant principal. She was such an excellent teacher. I have a great deal of respect for her. These were the ways that she was a wonderful teacher:

  • She had a great deal of respect for the students and they never felt that she was being unfair
  • She didn’t get caught up in minutia, picking her battles with middle schoolers carefully
  • She was extremely student centered, working hard to make sure they were successful
  • Always used creative teaching strategies – really engaging teaching activities to help kids learn concepts
  • Loved her content area and was really enthusiastic about her topic
  • Always strived to learn new things, especially using technology as a tool
  • Had complete control of the class – even if the students walked all over every other teacher in the middle school, they knew their place in her room

When we talked and I asked her about the skills that were needed to be an effective administrator, she said that being a teacher and looking at her job through teacher’s eyes was essential. I can definately see that. When asking teachers to work hard, learn new things, change their teaching, it helps to be empathetic because you were in their position at one point in time.

Here’s the thing about the culture in our building that I find frustrating and I asked her, carefully without mentioning any names, how to deal with those who just refuse to step up. She said that one must “nag” that individual and make them feel so uncomfortable until they feel either compelled to change or compelled to leave. In the twelve years I’ve been in this school community, I have yet to see teachers leave because they felt it was time to move on. Usually, it is the really great teachers who leave (for more money no doubt). The other thing she said was that they key was to get the real superstars (who tend to be the least vocal) to get on board. Then, they kind of bring everyone else along. If the superstars tend to be the quiet ones, how is their voice heard over the sound of the whiners? That will be the challenge. I thought it was important the she recognized that all of us have our strengths and weaknesses and that it was important to look at each of us as individuals.

In my position, I work with every single one of the teachers in our building. We’re expected to collaborate on integrating technology, and team-teach when the students are in the lab. I sometimes feel like a “mole” because I have information that I acquire from the teachers that I can not share with administration and vice versa. Things go on in the computer lab with teachers and students that I know should not continue. Specific teachers are not engaged with technology integration and bring down papers to grade and make it clear that their time here is planning so it is up to me to work with the students. I combat this by asking the teacher to help children every time they have a content-area related question, which accounts for half the questions. So I help the children by telling them what buttons to push, but I call the teacher over if the students have a question about how to word a sentence, spell something, or how to understand what it says on a website. Certainly, I could answer content related questions, but that is my way of keeping the teacher off the chair. The specific teachers however, have pulled some wool over they eyes of my favorite administrator. She mentioned names of teachers who she thought were very strong and could be real leaders in our efforts to improve. When I compare them to her based on how well we worked together when she was a teacher, I do not at all agree with her assessment of these teachers. As a “mole” I listen to people complain, put down administration, and flat out refuse to do what they have been asked (when it comes to implementing teaching strategies). Apparently, a couple of them are singing a different tune to my friend. I have to maintain the trust of the teachers in my building however, so I keep my mouth shut. I’ve gotten really good at that over the years. I think that will serve me well when I’m an administrator.

All in all, I think that my friend is a great assistant principal. She is just learning how to manage, but I am sure that her approach to this new job will be the same as it was when she was a teacher. She will show all the same degree of respect, engage all in learning, and effectively “control the class”.

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