This is August 21, 1990.This is an interview with Miss Frances Adkins in her home on her experiences as an elementary school principal.
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Q: Miss Adkins, would you begin by telling me about your family background--your childhood interests and development?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Well, I was born in Vinton and have lived here all except eight years of my life. I was the third of seven children. We had a large family and not much in the way of material advantages. But, even though my parents didn't have very much formal education, they were both interested in education and thought that it was important and I have always been thankful for that because I'm sure if they had not felt that way I might not have gotten into education and so forth. I attended elementary school at Roland E. Cook where I have retired as principal in 1980; and then I went to Vinton High School, graduated in 1932; and then I went to my first college work at Averett College in Danville which was a two-year school at that time and I was there two years and at that time you could get a normal professional certificate which certified you to teach in elementary school. I guess I just always liked, well, I loved school, everything about it from the time I started until I finished and I'm sure that had a lot to do with me wanting to be a teacher; but at that time there were not too many opportunities for women and teaching was one, nursing or a secretary and that was just about it--so I just, I guess I sort of drifted into being a teacher and then I went to UVA one summer, maybe it was, I believe it was the second summer after I started teaching and then I took a lot of University Extension Classes and some classes from Roanoke College and I finally ended up getting my Bachelor's Degree from Madison College; and then after I took the job as a principal I went back to, went to UVA and got my Master's Degree. I had thought at one time that I wanted my degree from UVA but since I was in teaching and they required so many other academic subjects at that time that I thought well I will just go to a teacher's school and get my degree but I did finally end up with my Master's from UVA.
Q: How many years did you serve as a teacher and how many years did you serve as a principal?
A: Okay, I taught 11 years to begin with and then I had a six-year period where I was a teaching principal and then I taught. I left Roanoke County and went into the city and taught fifth grade at Forest Park School for 12 years, so actually I had 29 years of teaching, and then I came to Roland E. Cook and I was principal there for 17 years.
Q: What motivated you to enter the principalship? How did these motives change over the years?
A: Well, I guess having been the teaching principal made me interested in the administrative side of it and then too after I'd been in it as long as I was I felt, you know, it would be interesting to have a change and I was offered the job and I really seriously considered it because I thought I needed to, if I was ever going to do something different, I needed to do it.
Q: As the teaching principal, was there a supplement for that?
A: Yes, a small supplement. You don't have any place in here much for salaries but I tell you, you know, I always say that I taught for ten years before I made a hundred dollars a month and the supplement, you know, any supplement helped at that time and I guess the reason that I changed and went into Roanoke City was because the salaries were higher in Roanoke City at that time--that was one of the reasons and then I felt like teaching two grades and being principal would've made a pretty heavy day so I went back to teaching for a while but then I decided that I would make the change, and I was never sorry that I did.
Q: Would you take me for a walk through your school, describing its appearance and any unusual features of the building?
A: Well, Roland E. Cook is an old school. It was built in 19--the first year that it was used was 1915--and I guess it is almost the oldest one that's in use in Roanoke County at the present time. It was in poor condition when I went there in 1963, and in 1966 they did a big remodeling job on the building which really improved its appearance and made it a more liveable building and even though it was old, I think most of the people who taught there always felt like it was sort of a homey kind of a school. There was, there's nothing outstanding about the building since it is that old; but at one time it had been not only the elementary but the high school and for that reason it had an auditorium and it had some facilities that all elementary school didn't have, like the area that became the cafeteria had been science labs when the high school was there so that was an advantage but we always just, I mean, having it remodeled which made it more liveable and it helped teachers to make it an attractive building and that's the way I always felt about the building myself that it was homey and attractive and that people enjoyed living in it.
Q: The next question we have covered somewhat, the different levels of principalship that you held but would you reiterate on that?
A: Well, I was the teaching principal in a four-room, four-teacher elementary school like I said for six years and that was during the time when enrollments in school grew by leaps and bounds and that's what had happened in that school. When, the first four years I had just the seventh grade and around 20 or maybe 18 or 19 pupils and then the last two years that I was in the school, I taught the sixth and seventh grades and would have as many as 37 to 40 pupils, but the majority of the students in that school were good students better, average and better. Their parents were good, average-class people who wanted the best of everything for their children and it was, most of them really wanted an education and were interested in anything and everything that you planned for them to do and it was interesting work and it was not hard even teaching the 37 or 40 pupils because the pupils were well-behaved and interested and wanted to learn.
Q: Please describe your personal philosophy of education and how did it change over the years?
A: I guess I was a peculiar educator because I never really had a--I never could quite see why everybody put so much importance on philosophy of education and yet I guess it is. Just like I said I always enjoyed school and loved everything about it and I just thought that school was a place to learn and I was interested in all children and since I came along at the time I did basic skills were always important and that's one thing that never, that I never changed my opinion about and even though we changed our methods and procedures and teaching and so forth and so on, I still thought that the basic learning skills were important and I think that even today we need to spend more time in drilling on basic skills in math, English and so forth and it's, I have read some letters in recent years from people who have finished high school and it's just hard to believe that anybody could have stayed in school for 12 years of their life and not have acquired any of the basic skills in the English language; and I still think that we need to pay more attention to those things than we did during the last part of my teaching experience even though we tried hard we never required as much as I think that we should and that's still part of my basic philosophy and I changed my way of thinking about lots of things. I use to think that the children should be retained a lot. I don't think that's as important as I had thought it was at that time but I do think, I still think there are times when it is beneficial for a child to repeat a grade and somehow or the other we ought to be able to get children and parents to see that that can be a good experience; and I think that we need to stress that progress in school ought to be made on a basis of achievement as well as a full life and so forth and I think when people finish school they should be ready for further education or employment of some kind; and I think that we need to strive to establish some ethical standards of behavior and to teach the pupils that they need to learn to participate in society as a responsible citizen and we need to try to help the children develop a positive and a realistic concept of themselves as well as others. We need to point out to children that there is beauty in our environment and there's beauty in everyday life if we just look around us and tend to see the good side of things as well as some of the other; and we certainly still need to, or more than ever, stress the sound habits of personal health for each child in our society.
Q: Would you describe your instructional philosophy of your school?
A: I tell you this is really--I don't know what my instructional philosophy was but I do say, I do think this, I've always thought it and I think it still applies today, teachers or schools need to set high standards and we need to let those pupils know what those standards are and try to help them measure up to their very best which is not easy but I still think we ought to work toward that--so I guess my instructional philosophy would be that the schools have a program which will enable each child to develop as far as they can go.
Q: Please describe your management philosophy.
A: Well, here we go again. I am of the opinion that a principal is a leader and that a principal has to set standards the same as teachers do and this is just something that we do and if the leader of the school has standards and lets people know what they are or I guess in the last years we developed some of those standards with the people that we were working with and I guess that is really the best kind of management that you could have when everybody who works in the building has a part in establishing the things that are going on in the instructional areas of the school.
Q: Can you give an example of something that people had a say in later years?
A: Well, all of, when, when most of our schools in Roanoke County were going through the program for school improvements through the Southern Association, those self-studies, and then later on when the standards of quality and objectives were set up for public school in Virginia, all of those were, it was suggested that all of those standards and so forth that you were going to use that you develop them with the people on your staff.
Q: What kinds of things do teachers expect principals to be able to do?
A: I think that I had already told you that sometimes they expect them to be able to wave a magic wand and take care of any problems that exist.
Q: Describe your views concerning what it takes to be an effective principal.
A: Well, that's pretty hard to do. I had one class I'm going to refer to later more than I am right now but this, this was of all the courses that I had while I was taking this was the best one, and the name of it was the Cooperative Program of Directive Practice in Supervision Education and it was a course in which it lasted from September through June and it was under the sponsorship of the University of Virginia and every assignment in the class was so stated that each person in the class answered or did research and answered all of the things that were required according to the position that that person was holding. We had in my class we had an elementary supervisor and we had a principal of a high school and I was principal of an elementary school and we ended up with just the three people and a professor from University of Virginia, we went to the University of Virginia for an all-day session where the groups from all over the State met there and then in the different section of the State we had a professor from the University of Virginia and he came to our section once a month and we met for, we met at the place where we worked; for instance, they met with me at Roland E. Cook School one day, then we would go with the elementary supervisor and she planned different areas for us to visit. We visited a primary school and we went to her central office one day and then we went to the high school principal's place but all of the assignments each of us did them for our position and it was really a down to earth kind of a thing and it was just great, you know, and the first, the first assignment that we had was to define our role as, mine was as an elementary principal and in doing it, as the introduction of it we described our building and told of all the people who worked in it and all this kind of thing and then we had to contact or we were asked to contact all of the people, the different areas in which we worked and that were connected with our job for instance we were, we had to have permission from our superintendent to take the course to begin with and he had to be willing to spend some time with us in the course and the same way with the other people who were in the administrative office and not only were we supposed to do that but then we had to interview some of these people and see what they expected an elementary principal to do. We contacted or we asked teachers to give us a short resume of what they expected of their principal. We asked parents to, I just sent them a letter and asked them if they would send in what they thought an elementary principal should do and then we asked the pupils to do it and it really helped us in getting an idea of what a person in that position should do. Dr. Horn, who was superintendent, who was the superintendent at that time, came to my building one day and spent about a half day with me and even though I knew some of the things that had been expected, it was wonderful to have him come and just sit down and go through what he thought an elementary principal ought to do; and according to him, it was the duty of each principal to organize his school within the administrative policies of the Roanoke County School Board and the State Board of Education; and that each principal in the school was responsible for the placing of teachers, grouping of pupils, scheduling them for his school; and he wanted each principal to have a lot of freedom in carrying out this responsibility. The principal at that time was also responsible for the complete operation of the school lunch program. The principal was responsible for the business procedures within the school, and accurate and complete records had to be kept of all money transactions and then the principal also had to supervise the custodial staff of the school; and it was the principal's responsibility for making correct and prompt reports to the School Board Office; and I guess I was just of the "old school" and always felt that if I had a directive from the School Board Office that that what you were supposed to do. We just didn't question all of those in those days like we do today. Anyway, Dr. Horn, though, thought that the most important responsibility of the principal was the academic or the instructional program of the school and that's what he stressed when he was the superintendent. The principal really sets the pace for the educational practice in the school and the school reflects the principal's personality and attitude toward learning and the principal should make every effort to help teachers and pupils develop a positive attitude and provide an atmosphere which is conducive to learning. He, Dr. Horn, believed that principals should visit classrooms and observe work and that a cooperative working relationship between the principal and each teacher was a necessity for satisfactory schools and then you might add well from that question.
Q: That's fine.
A: You think. Well, teacher evaluation was another part of that responsibility and that was one of the hardest things of all, I think; but I believe that if a principal spent more time observing and so forth in the classroom that I think that's the best way of establishing that good relationship. When you are in the room enough that you can just go in and not create any disturbance by being there, that helps to establish that good feeling toward the teacher and I think it had to be often and it was one of my weak points. I didn't do as much of that kind of thing as I think a principal really needs to do; and then I guess you couldn't talk about the characteristics of a good principal without mentioning the fact that one of the main, one of the most, I guess, one of the most important is that of public relations. A principal has to establish good feeling of public relations with not just the people who work in the schools but the community and the parents and all the people that are connected with it.
Q: Okay. You have describe the expectations mainly by central office in what you just did. Now, do you think that those expectations differ today?
Q: They remain basically the same.
A: Basically the same, I think.
Q: Okay. Miss Adkins, would you please describe the personal and professional characteristics of the good principal?
A: Well, I think probably friendliness would be one of the personal characteristics that might be very important, respect for others, other people, kindness, patience; and as far as the professional characteristics are I think you certainly need some training in how to manage and get along with people from all different groups and you need a good academic background in all areas of education; and I think it is well for a principal of the school to have spent some time teaching in whatever level of school it is. That if they are going to be an elementary principal they should have taught some years in the elementary schools, and the same way in the middle schools and the high schools.
Q: There are those who argue that the principal should be an instructional leader and others who feel that the principal must be a good manager. Please give your view and describe your style.
A: Well, I believe the principal would almost have to be both of those things. I think you need to be an instructional leader and like I said when I was talking about Dr. Horn and he said that was the most important characteristic or the most important job that a principal had to do was to set up that instructional program and I don't believe you are going to have a very good instructional program unless you are a good manager and can organize the school and set up schedules and so forth that will enable the teachers to do a good job of instruction.
Q: Some feel that central office policies hinder rather than help building administrators. What are your views regarding this?
A: Well, I guess all of us at times felt, probably felt, that that was true to a certain extent but I think I've already expressed my opinion. I was of the old school and I thought they were my superiors and that if they issued a statement or policy that it was my job to carry out those statements and policies and I think that they are done in a right manner that they are not going to be a hindrance to the operation of your school. That applies, their managing of that type thing applies just like what the principal would do in the individual school.
Q: You have been actively involved in community activities. Did you feel this was your responsibility as principal and what activities did you feel had the greatest influence on you and your school?
A: I think that if you are going to be a principal in a school that you, you should do--feel some responsibility to the community which your school serves. I think I had mentioned to you before we started this interview that sometimes it was pretty hard to find the time to be very actively involved but I think that we, that principals have to cooperate with the community organizations and that you need the support of your community and if you aren't going to cooperate you certainly wouldn't have that support; and as to what activities had the greatest influence on me and our school, probably my church activities. I did continue to be active in church activities during all that time and then for a long time for about 15 years I, while I was at Mount Vernon School the teaching principal's job, because there was no one else to lead the 4-H Club, I led the club because I had some pupils who were interested in the work and then I became interested in it and I did a lot of camping. I did a lot of special activities with the 4-H Club and I did some camping experiences which were I used, some people use to ask me why I wanted to waste my time going to camp in the summer but most of the 4-H camps I always said that I learned as much when I went and worked in a 4-H camp as I did when I went to summer school and took courses. The extension service personnel were a superior group of people and it was just a real joy to watch them organize camps and they put into practice so many of the things that we said we should put into practice in schools with children. They had such a wonderful way of presenting high standards and ideals and so forth and in getting the majority of the boys and girls who were in the camp to measure up to those expectations that I'm sure that the voluntary work that I did did me as much good as it ever did the young people that I worked with. That was the community activity that to me was really worthwhile.
Q: Earlier you mentioned that teacher evaluation you felt was a difficult thing to do, would you describe your approach to teacher evaluation and also did you ever have to evaluate a teacher as needing improvement? Did you have many of those?
A: I was lucky. I never had too many. Now, I had a lot during my time as principal I had a lot of young teachers right out of college but the majority of those people were people who were interested in education and they had become a teacher because they wanted to be a teacher and most of them were anxious to succeed and they were, as a rule, easy to work with and to guide and most of them would take most any suggestions you had and make an effort to do things. I did have one or two people that I had felt that even though, of course, way back we had no tenure but then we had tenure and even though some of these people had taught for a long time and were on tenure, there were a couple of them that to me really needed not to be there but it's pretty hard to do anything about after they've stayed in it for a few years. I don't think we ought to give up though. I think that if we have people that we really think are not suitable and are not doing a good job that we ought to have a plan of some kind that we could get rid of those people in schools; and usually lot of times they had a way of working themselves out. The people would either leave on their own accord or they would get married and moved always and that kind of thing, so that helped; but I do think teacher evaluation has its place and of course toward the end we had a very sophisticated plan and if we really worked at it, it did help.
Q: Much emphasis is placed in today's society on grievance. Please discuss your views on the desirability of teacher grievance procedures and describe your approach to handling teacher dissatisfaction.
A: I think I've just said what I think about it, really. I guess that in the society that we are living in today that the grievance procedure has its place and I'm sure that people in the administrative positions don't always do everything the way they should be done and the teacher at times might really deserve to have that grievance procedure. I think I've already mentioned a couple of times my feeling on, you know, if people are my superiors and I'm working for them I feel, I mean, I just felt that that's what we did that that was the right way of doing things and I guess really for most cases that kind of feeling still exists to a certain extent. It has to, really.
Q: School administration is a complex job. What are some things that you would change to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of school administration?
A: I'm not sure that I could answer that question at all. I think we need to try to keep it from being such a complex job but I don't know how you would go about doing it; but there were times when there were so many reports that had to be in and so forth that it made you feel that you spent all your time in doing that kind of thing when you ought to be working with the teachers on the academic programs; but I said it's, I know, that whatever you do has to be reported and it's just really hard to say what you could leave out and what you couldn't leave out.
Q: Okay, that question was in regard to school administration. The next question, if you could change something about the curriculum or the overall operation of American schools, what would it be?
A: Well, I think under that I would suggest that we really spend more time on the basic skills. I think that would be the thing that I would say that we need the most; and I just, I'm sure that we need to do a lot of that and I usually think of the English and the math especially and I do think that children could learn more of those basic skills. Now, I don't know what it is about the way we have been trying to teach them but we certainly can see that a lot of them have not learned them and I believe that we could spend more time in that area.
Q: It has been said that there is a home-school gap and that more parental involvement with the schools needs to be developed. Would you give your view of this issue and tell what you did to enhance parental involvement within your school?
A: Well, this is another one of those big problems that you have and I think your ideal is when you do have parental involvement and at least to the extent that they cooperate with what you are trying to do but I can also see sometimes why it's hard for parents to be more involved with school. They are so involved with trying to provide the everyday necessities that their time is limited too and so many of these parents, maybe I shouldn't say so many but some parents just are not interested in education. They don't think its important and they don't stress it with their children and that makes it really difficult to work with those children and get them to want to learn; and like I said, we just live such a hectic kind of home life, some of these people do, that it makes it real hard for them to become involved and I can understand both sides of it.
Q: Standardized testing has become very important in influencing educational decisions. Please tell me your views on standardized testing as it affects the quality of the instructional program.
A: Well, any one of these you could just spend all day talking about. I guess I finally got around to the point where I think that standardized testing was important but I'm not so sure that it really affected, well I guess it did affect a lot of educational decisions too, because we do place a lot of importance on it and, of course, we need to know some test scores in order to provide for the individual children and I guess that we have tried to spend more time on well if our scores were low in reading we tried to stress the reading and I think they have had a great influence on the instructional program in recent years. I don't know whether they are as important as the place that they hold in education today.
Q: In your school, did you do much with grouping and tracking?
A: Well, back a few years, see I've been retired for ten years now, and I'd say the ten years previous to that, to me about the time I had retired, we had just really gotten our schools better organized and we had stressed the fact that we needed small groups and individual attention and we had put in all of these special people and sometimes they make it very difficult in scheduling and this kind of thing but we had gotten, and our enrollment had fallen off and since we had as many special people as we did we had been able to do more for the individual child than we had for a long time, like when we had a full-time librarian and we only had maybe 12 or 14 classroom teachers, our librarian was very cooperative and she would let a teacher send half of her pupils at one time for the library period and the teacher would keep the other half in her room and then at that time we had a good set up as far as teacher aides were concerned and if that teacher could have an aide during that time well she could work with about one-fourth of the class which got it down to where we felt and not only did we do that with the library but we did that in other subject areas and it, we had just gotten to where we felt that we were able to work with small groups and do more individual teaching than we had done for a long time but then you know the cutbacks come and then they began to take away all those special people. So I don't know, we just start to go in circles but at one time we really got it to where we had more, I mean, teachers working and being able to do more individual help because of all of those special programs that we had at school and of course those special programs were just a great enrichment anyway for the school area and it's sad that the money end of it is being cut, cut, cut, cut.
Q: What effect did the emergence of special education programs have in your school; and if you have any views on the current trend to decentralize the location of severely handicapped children, would you comment on that?
A: Well, I don't think anything had more affect on our schools than the emergence of special education programs; and, of course, at one time a lot of them were set up where they were segregated and I think both plans were good and had an affect on children. I think that probably the special education teachers had not received as much in helping and working with the children with special problems as they really needed to and when you had a whole class of them it made for a very difficult situation but if we are going to educate all of our children I think our special education program is very important and I think we have a lot of children who required the services of the special education people the ones who worked with them; and like I've said, both of these plans where you segregated them and when you decentralized them, both of them have advantages. I guess the decentralization the best thing is that sometimes the child who has the special needs are with the average and average pupils and it's better as far as his social development is concerned for him to mingle with those children but so often some of those special education children were not only educationally deprived they were discipline problems and it made it very difficult for teachers to have them in a regular classroom and have to work with all of the children.
Q: Please discuss the nature of your student bodies and comment on the problems, challenges and victories in which you participated as principal.
A: Let's see, the nature of the student bodies, well in Roland E. Cook we had a lot of children from underprivileged homes and it really affected everybody. I think that was one of the reasons that more parents didn't take part. Now, we had some parents who were very active in all of our organi- zations and did some voluntary work in the schools. It would have really been hard to get along with them but we had a lot of slow learning children,--children that were not low enough in intelligence to be in special ed. but they were slow learning and they came from homes where they didn't get very much atten- tion and they needed a lot of special help and special atten- tion and they needed a lot of kindness and friendliness and this kind, these kinds of things done for them all the time. It was hard sometimes to think or to see where you had very many victories. It was always a challenge to try to provide for those children and there were times when you felt that you had really been able to accomplish that. I remember one thing that Dr. Horn use to say. He said about the only hope for that type child was that he have a good teacher and that somehow or other that teacher could inspire that child to want a better life than he had been living; and he still felt that good teachers were able to do that and I believe they are too. It's the kind of thing that's hard to measure if you want to measure your successes and so forth but most all the time we hear people talk about a certain teacher that how that teacher had influenced their life and I think, I think it's still true.
Q: You have worked under several different superintendents. Would you describe your relationship with the superintendent in terms of general demeanor toward you and your school.
A: Well, I guess I was real lucky. I always seem to have a fairly good working relationship with the superintendent and I think that all of them all of them really expected that you as the principal to run your school so to speak and they wanted you to take the initiative and to do that kind of thing. They were always willing if you had a problem to discuss it with you and so forth and it was a good feeling and it was good to have them visit your school. You didn't realize until you were principal how much it meant for the superintendent to come into the school. It was great having them come and that was certainly one way of letting you know that they were interested in what was going on in your school.
Q: Did you ever feel that since central office was in Salem and you were located in Vinton that the distance had something to do with their visits?
A: Not too much, see, Dr. Horn and Mr. Burton both had lived in Vinton part of the time and that way, I think it was harder for them to visit the schools that were farther away because it took so much more time from them; but like I said, if you if, they didn't come so often but if you ever needed them and you put in a call most of the time they responded and they did come to the school. Mr. Burton was a public relations person. He pushed public relations at all times.
Q: Miss Adkins, it has been said that the curriculum has become much more complex in recent years. Would you comment on the nature of the curriculum during the time you were principal and compare it to the situation in today's schools, citing positive and negative aspects of the situation then and now?
A: I guess complex is a good word to use of the description of the curriculum. We use to think when new programs came along we thought, we are already so full, our schedules are so full that we don't have time to do what we are trying to do and here we are putting in a completely new program and I'm thinking about sex education. We didn't call it sex education, did we?
Q: Family life.
A: Family life but that type of program. It required a lot of time to get started into a new program even though that was a part of the health curriculum which we had already had and even though all of these things that came along that were added are important it was difficult and probably that is the reason that we had neglected the basic skills; and, of course, the curriculum today is even more complex than it was ten years ago with the advent of computers and many other machines and so forth. I really, I think, I think all of these have their good sides and I think they have their negative aspects as well. Sometimes I think we start of these programs too early in the elementary school. I'm not so sure that for some of them you might in one year's time say after maybe third grade that they would learn as much as if it had not been started in kindergarten. I think we need to consider some of those things and give more time in those first years of school to basic learning and then add those programs later on and then again I know we are living in an age of computers and everybody is going to be working so they won't need to learn those basic skills in math. They can just do them on a computer; but I think they are going to have to know some of them in order to use that computer and all these other complicated machines.
Q: Please describe your work day; that is, how did you spend your time? What was the normal number of hours per week that you worked?
A: I should have kept a record. One of the things, I spoke of that class that I had was so good, one of the things that we had to do in that class was to keep a diary during the time that we were taking the course and it proved to be very, very interesting; and I was looking back through some of those pages and I noted that most of my days lasted until well around five o'clock or later and a lot of those headings were started at 7:20 and 7:25 and 7:30. So overall we spent right many hours, more than you would think and then sometimes after coming home at five o'clock you brought a certain report or something that had to be completed and you spent other time. I really, I never, I don't know, I think, I think, I believe it was Dr. Horn who said that it was a job that you couldn't do in a certain number of hours and I think he was right and it required long hours but I think we got to the place where, well I know salaries increased and so forth and then you were really better paid for the number of hours that you worked then we were for so long in education but how did you spend your time, well you did everything. There wasn't much of anything that you didn't do. It was amazing, you know. I remember my pro- fessor. We had to turn those diaries in and that I, that was one professor who read every word that you wrote. He really was marvelous. I don't know how he was able to do it as much as he did but one thing he said to me, he said, I had looked back in my notes when he had made that assignment, and he said be specific and he told me that mine was the most detailed he had ever read; but it did give you a better idea of how you spent your time and it let you see that you could spend or that it was almost required that you spend a lot of your time doing little tedious things that maybe could have been handled in a better way I don't know; but anyway that was an interesting experience to keep a diary of what you did day-in and day-out for several months. I believe he let us do it for about half of the year and then he said we didn't need to do it any longer. It took time, it took a lot of time to do that.
Q: If you had to do it again, what kinds of things would you do to better prepare yourself for the principalship? Would you describe your feelings, knowing what you know now, about entering the principalship if given the opportunity to start anew?
A: Well, like I said, I had this one course which applied to the job that I was doing and it really meant more to me than any of the others that I had any time in the process so I think these courses now that are set up to train administrators and somewhere it asked what you asked about them working being paired with an administrator I think that's a good idea and I think you can, you get more insight into the actual operation of a school by working with a person who is in that position and if colleges could have a few more of these down-to-earth and practical kind of courses the college part of it would be more beneficial to us; and I think, well, the kind of course that you are taking right now to me would be, it really would be great for all people who are going into administration to have that kind of a course. I don't know. I'll talk to you more about it when we get through but I think, I mean, to me that's just great.
Q: Okay, the next question you've touched on but I'm going to ask it anyway. What suggestions would you offer to universities as a way of helping them to better prepare candidates for administrative positions? Comment on weaknesses in traditional programs of training for administrators.
A: Well, I had just referred to it but they do need and I think they can easily set up some practical ones if they have a few people that have some imagination and foresight and so forth and they're just like high school and elementary. They need to be looking for better ways of doing things and to get away from their traditional programs which really were more theory and just not very practical. I think that would be my thing if they could just make the courses more practical in setting up good training programs.
Q: So in your way of thinking the theory and the history is not as important?
A: Well, I'll tell you. You need some of that but you need more of the things that are practical and now that one course to me was almost like an on-the-job training program and I just wonder how I was lucky enough to have found one like that at that time because there weren't so many of that type of program going on.
Q: Principals operate in a constantly tense environment. What kinds of things did you do to maintain your sanity under these stressful conditions?
A: Well, I guess you just got to where you thought it was just a part of life, you know, and you had to learn, just assume that we were going to live in that kind of environment and you just eventually adjusted to it and like some of those characteristics I remembered like patience and kindness and so forth when it was not easy to do at time and I really, I don't know what, I mean, I can't remember anything particular you did to maintain your sanity. I guess you just had to get away after so long and we usually were able to recoup and go on and meet the stress and I believe that there will always be a certain amount of tenses there. If we are interested and care about what we are doing, that kind of environment sometimes develops; but I guess if you're able to, like I said, keep your patience and hold on to that temper and try to work things out most of the time they will ease up so that we can live with them.
Q: Please comment on the pros and cons of the administrative service. Is there any advice that you would wish to pass along to today's principals?
A: I don't believe so. I think if they've got a good, you know, if that's what they really want to do and are interested in it and take training courses and so forth, I don't think they would have too much trouble in doing it.
Q: You commented earlier that you think the mentoring program in which administrative students are paired with experienced principals--you commented that that is a good thing. How do you think these mentors should be chosen and should there be inservice or training for the mentor to work with this student?
A: That might be a good point and I don't think every person who's a principal would make a good one for a new person to work with; and that's just like if you have a good teacher you're all set and I'm sure that the professor that I had had a lot to do with this course meaning as much to us as it did because of the way he presented it to us and that person would be, that's a very important thing to think about when you set up that type of program as to who those people are going to be that are going to work with and I think it would have to be somebody who was interested and wanted to do that and to make it a success but I still think it's a good way and I think we have enough good principals so that you can find people that are capable of setting up that kind of a program.
Q: Despite my best efforts to be comprehensive in my questioning, there's probably something I've left out. What have I not asked you that I should have?
A: I think you've covered a lot of things. I really do and I can't think of anything you've left out. You've asked questions that are concerned with the entire school program, in all areas of it, so I don't, I don't really think.
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