Monday, September 8, 2008

"Cliques and Lousy Principals"

This is in response to a comment that Mountain Girl left on my post.

She said, "I taught special education for 6 years. My second to the last year was pure HELL. I had an abusive principal who NEVER should have been in education. Your list was great and oh, so true. What would you say about cliques and lousy principals, etc.? I have a friend who basically got blackballed by her principal, HR and everyone else, she wasn't sure she'd even get another job in teaching - she did, but only because she had subbed at this school."

This was her question, "What would you say about cliques and lousy principals, etc.?" I thought it would make a great follow up post.

I do notice a lot of cliques in schools, but in my experience, nothing that is mean or nasty. I notice that primary teachers tend to hang around with primary teachers, intermediate teachers with intermediate teachers, bilingual teachers with bilingual teachers, educational assistance with educational assistance and so on down the line. There are a couple in each "group" that I know well, but I tend to have the most in common with the intermediate teachers. We have had individuals, in the past, that weren't very friendly, or were abrasive, but everyone usually left them alone and they either got the hint, become nicer or they moved on to a different school.

As far as principals go, I have truly been blessed. In my nineteen years I have been with only 4 principals. They were all a little different and had different styles of "leadership," but they got their job done. Some styles I've liked more, but I've never had issues with them.

Mr. A, my first principal, was very involved, but I was so focused on getting my feet wet and surviving my day, that I had more interaction with my mentor teacher, then with him. He was only there my first year.

Mr. A's vice principal, Mr. V. became the next principal. He was very relaxed and I could joke around with him a lot. On April Fools Day, we "borrowed" the office keys and put his desk upside down. He tried to act upset, but we knew he wasn't. On the last day of school, he got us back by squirting us with a water gun.

Mr. V moved on after 2 years and we got Mrs. N. She was very hands off, liked to ignore issues and was always at a meeting. She always backed the teachers when we had issues with parents, which was nice. Luckily we had an amazing vice principal, Mr. H, who ran the school and did as much as he could, without actually have any of the real authority. All the students thought Mr. H was the principal because they never saw Mrs. N. A few of us took on a much bigger leadership role and were very involved in the daily running of the school. Mr. H needed all the extra support he could get. It was a very democratic atmosphere. Things worked good, with all of us helping them, for 14 years. Then Mr. H retired and Mrs. B moved on.

This is only our second year with our new principal, Mrs. S., and vice principal, Mr. S., who came together from a different school. They are usually attached at the hip, carpool (No, they are not married.), deal with issues right away, are very supportive and uplifting, appreciate the hard work we do and work well as a team. I really like that they have a "by-the-book" kind of leadership style. They are at the school 90% of the time and the kids definitely know who they are. They are more in control and make a lot more of the decisions. We were happy to hand the reins back over and "just" go back to teaching. They expect people to do their jobs and hold people accountable when they are not. I have always been a "rule follower," so this leadership style works great for me.

One of the reasons I have been at my school for 19 years is that I love the people I work with, so much. I also love the year round calendar.

My advice, for those who are experiencing abuse from other staff members or their principals, is to move on. To me, it's just not worth it. I'd rather cut my losses, move on and find an atmosphere that I do like and a principal that I can support and supports me. Mr. H once said to our staff (in response to people who were disgruntled and causing drama), "RETHINK, RELOCATE OR RETIRE!"

RETHINK...the way you deal with people and issues, an atmosphere that fits you better, or
RETIRE...if you think you just can't handle what's being asked of you anymore and are doing yourself, coworkers and the kids a disservice, by staying.

That kind of sums it up for me.

1 comment:

Mountain Girl said...

Thank you for your response. It seems like some teachers never have any problems and others are plagued. My Mom taught (mostly) kindergarten for 30-40 years and she never had problems with her principals. Maybe I had problems because I taught special ed. But, I moved on. You are right despite the blatant abuse, nobody would've done anything so I left. And even though I am still sort of in teaching I don't have to deal with the political BS. I LOVE it! I can still work/help my kids/parents and don't have to deal with principals, etc. Funny thing though, I am beginning to do some student advocacy......