Doug Peterson wrote a great post a few days ago comparing how adults are treated at conferences with the daily experience of students in high school. The post has attracted over 20 comments from readers so it definitely resonates with many people.
Doug makes this point at the end of the post:
“Why couldn’t school be like this” takes on importance. We probably don’t want to encourage a society addicted to bacon and coffee but there were lots of great takeaways that could/should be implemented or have an impact on design. The presenters and organizers had all kinds of insights about how to make things great for adult learners.
Are there not lessons there for the regular classroom and school day?
Later, Doug commented that none of the posts supported the status quo – which as he writes, is a good thing. Doug suggested that maybe schools could be a little more flexible and allow another 5 minutes for students between classes. He then wrote:
Then, I got an email from a principal, not a comment. Uh oh. The tone was a little different and she noted that rules are crucial to maintaining discipline and order within a school. Extending the five minutes would allow for more opportunity for students to do things unsupervised. Whatever happened to mutual respect? I’d suggest that you could even give it a try to see how students responded and if it had an impact on classroom performance if you had another five minutes to stretch your legs.
This led to a really interesting conversation on how an administrator can make a positive difference in a school especially if they have the welfare of students and teachers as their main focus. Aviva Dunsiger another great Ontario blogger commented:
What really got me on the first day of school this year, is that my new principal always pops in and says, “hello,” every morning. He checks in with all staff constantly. “How are you? What can I do to help?” Even when he’s busy and stressed, he’s still smiling, positive, and ALWAYS making time for the staff.
Doug’s two posts, IT DOESN’T ALWAYS COST MONEY and IN THEIR SHOES have garnered 27 comments already. Doug is right – the status quo is being challenged. I added my comment to his blog and it is included below. I am less familiar with high school structure as I have been in elementary for the past ten years. However, Doug and Aviva’s discussion on administrators really resonated so I had to add something about the role of the administrator. Is it changing? Are we getting this right?
The primary role of the principal should be to support staff, students, and parents. The teachers need to be allowed to teach and teaching is certainly the hardest job in education. My philosophy as principal was always ‘what can I do to make your job easier? I respect what you do, I know how hard it is, what needs to be done to make you more effective?’
I was never a fan of those who wanted to pressure teachers to do ‘more’ or to drive up the test scores – a ridiculous venture at the best of times.
There are lots of great administrators out there, but also lots who never seem to understand that they are really in the school to play a support or servant role. Maybe it has something to do with a mistaken understanding of what it truly means to be a leader in an educational community.
This is the one thing that I can add to this conversation. While it is essential that principals support their staff and see that as their primary responsibility, it also should go without saying that principals also need support from people at the district office. This, unfortunately, does not always happen, in fact in my experience, board officials often did not support our efforts to do the work we needed to do. I think this takes place because there are various opinions of what administrators are supposed to do. Many believe that principals are agents of the school board and must always put the interests of the board first.
There seems to be a disconnect between what is good for the school and what is good for the education corporation – the two do not always fall into alignment.
I have always tried to put the interests of the school first, which probably explains why I struggled to work with some of the officials at the school board level.
Whatever you believe, it should be children first. We should support what is good for our teachers because they know what is best for our kids.