Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Only Good Principal Is A. . . . well, actually, I don't know; I've never had a good principal.

Some of the 'teacher blogs' are humming tonight with talk of administrators, mostly negative, so I would like to take a moment to talk about some of the really good principals and superintendents I have worked with over the past 26 years.

I really would like to. Unfortunately, I can't, because I have never had a good principal or superintendent.

Whoops, wait a minute, I take that back. I once had a good superintendent, but of course, in THIS town, he didn't last long. He was pretty much set up, framed, and run out of town, because that's, by golly, what we DO to non-political types who try to be impartial and treat everybody's kid the same, around these parts.

Let's see, when I first started teaching, in a little town south of here, I had a principal who came to me on opening night of "Harvey" and told me that one of the scenes had to go. He'd had the play on his desk for four months, and almost every day I asked him how he liked the play, did he have any suggestions, etc, and he always told me that everything was fine. And on opening night, he said we could not go on unless that scene was removed. I refused, because if you've ever worked with kids on a production like this, and had it all blocked out and memorized, etc, it's just not practical to change it around a couple of hours before the curtain rises. He was furious with me, and I don't think he ever forgave me for disgracing the school like that with a dark, subversive, alcohol-advocating show like "Harvey." You know, the big white rabbit?

My second principal was a man who liked to wear deely-boppers almost daily, and who loved to get on the loudspeaker and say things like "Let's be SPONTANEOUS today! Let's have fourth period during seventh period, second period during eighth period, etc." Never any warning, and it didn't matter if you'd been counting on running off a test for eighth period during your third period prep. He also refused to admit that several of our 8th grade girls were pregnant, and absolutely would not allow any counseling, etc, because it wasn't necessary because the girls were nice girls from good families and they WERE NOT PREGNANT. But they were. Oh, and he used to count ballots himself so he could stack the student council, awards nights, etc, with the children of important people.

Third, I had a principal who kept a Lazy-Boy recliner down in the janitor's lounge in the boiler room, and every. single. afternoon. he went down there and took a two-three hour nap. He was also a pathological liar.

Fourth, after they demoted the Lazy Boy, a young principal was imported from outside the system (almost unheard of) and his main goal was to raise morale. He did this by putting us into the shithole, money-wise, but people smiled a little more than they used to. The week after he promised us, as a group, that he intended to stay at our school for many years, he was promoted and walked out without so much as a backward glance.

Fifth was a genuine nightmare. This was the principal who, daily, wore the green jacket with the rotted, faded underarms. Who kept his teeth in his back pocket, so that when he sat down, he bit himself on the butt. Whose tie was covered with many years' worth of dried crusty food. Whenever he walked into the cafeteria, the sound of lunchboxes being slammed shut echoed all over the room, because he had the bad habit of helping himself to thises and thats from little kids' lunchboxes as he walked up and down the aisles of the cafeteria. Who was SEEN, more than once, taking an ice cream cone from a child, licking it, and giving it back. Who brought a girl into his office, and told her to remove her offensive t-shirt right there in front of him. She refused, and he tried to punish her, and got sued. Who eventually went nuts.

Sixth was a man who was nothing but a used car salesman. A telemarketer. His only experience was in sales. He was very good with budgets, etc, but knew nothing whatsoever about kids. He, too, loved the wealthier families best.

Seventh was just weird. He had absolutely no crowd control, and he became angry at people who did. He once, microphone in hand, yelled to a bunch of kids "Don't make me come up there and shit!" He meant 'sit,' I assume, but that's not what he said. Most of his ineptitude was down in the office, and when he was demoted, the secretaries had a celebration.

Eighth should never have been given the position in the first place. He had three years' experience, as a substitute elementary teacher, and knew nothing about older kids. He tried to treat our kids like elementary kids, and once you do that, you've lost them forever. He was a good ol' boy, and all the male teachers got along jest fine with him, but the women teachers could do nothing right. He knew nothing about the internet and the sad and sorry truth was, he wasn't smart enough to be a principal.

Ninth tried, she really did. But she was a firm believer in the rulebook and the handbook, and even when common sense dictated that something be overlooked, it never was, because if it was in the handbook, it was carved in stone. She often wore shorts to work, though she didn't have the figure for it, and once, at an assembly, in front of the whole student body, she demonstrated what the handbook meant by "too short" by raising her shorts up to her crotch, thereby producing an entire gymnasium full of boys who vowed they would never marry. She and I managed to stay friends in spite of her stubbornness about rules and my disregard for them.

Tenth was an absolute idiot. I really don't know how else to describe him. He was the last principal I worked for, and he was not competent to work with people. Not just in a school, ANYWHERE. No "people skills" whatsoever. No computer skills, either.

I won't go into the superintendent thing tonight; but perhaps those on that other blog (and it's one of my favorite blogs; it was a commenter who disagreed with me there) who think I'm making an ad hominem attack might understand why I do not trust principals unless they prove themselves competent, and they do that by supporting their teachers, using common sense, and refusing to buckle under parental pressure for exceptions. They don't play favorites; they're not 'good ol' boys;' they're smart; and they respect their teachers enough to leave them alone and let them teach. They handle discipline problems fairly and promptly, which does NOT mean sending the kid right back to the classroom, and if the misbehaving kid is the offspring of important people, or an athlete, that doesn't make the least bit of difference.

A good principal is a person who is to be greatly feared by the rotten kids, because they KNOW he/she will give them exactly what they have earned, and greatly respected by the good kids, for that same reason. Good kids are not afraid of a good principal, but there is something in me that thinks that the bad kids should be.

As for the bad principals. . . . EVERYBODY should be afraid of them. That kind of power in those incompetent hands? Heaven help us.

I have seen good principals, but never in my school. I always envied the teachers in buildings with a good principal. Heck, I have former students who are principals now. I've never seen them in action but I bet they're good.

My former school was kind of like the Principal's Burying Grounds; we got everybody's discards.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my job now? More and more, daily. Especially when I come back from a walk down memory lane.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:27 AM | |


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