Today is November 20, 1995 and this is an interview with Dr. James M. Anderson, Division Superintendent of the Prince Edward County Public Schools. Today we are talking about theories of educational administration.
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Q: Would you please discuss the way in which you were chosen for your first administrative role, as well as any subsequent assignments?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Well, my first administrative role, I was returned to my home high school to be guidance counselor and teacher and the principal was stricken with a heart attack--very unfortunate situation and as best I can assess, I was the only male teacher on the staff and probably the only one who had a masters degree at that time. And so, the superintendent called me and said, "I'm going to name you acting principal, in the absence of the principal." One of the things was, during our principal's heart attack, very early on we learned, that he was administered a transfusion with the wrong kind of blood. So, he lay at death's door for approximately five months of the school year. And, so really, I was thrust on center stage my first year of teaching high school. I had taught in college before for two years and I had taught in upper elementary school for two years, but this was my first venture into the high school walls. It was very unfortunate, very in tandem. I remember it very well because it was the day of, well, it was the day that President Kennedy was inaugurated, as a result of his win in the election over Vice President Nixon and the principal and I had discussed a great deal of the politics of that election. It was on Inauguration Day that he was stricken. The unfortunate thing was that the superintendent had told me that my assignment was to hold things and keep things and any decision that was going to change things at all, any decision, that was going to change the running of the school, I was to come to him and meet with him before that decision was made, which meant that you were nothing in the world, but in a holding pattern. It reminded me very much of having your defensive team on the field, but never the offense whatsoever. You couldn't plan anything; you couldn't change anything. All the pattern was to hold it like it was. Both he, the superintendent and the principal's family, I think, in retrospect, put on somewhat a charade with the thinking that the principal would return and they wanted everything left so that when he returned it would be, but because of his health conditions, it was hopeless. Everyone knew that it was just going to be a matter of time and that he would never be able to function mentally, if physically again. So, from January through May, I functioned in that type of role and it was my first administrative role. Now after the principal passed away in late May, and I had to be in charge of all of the graduation exercises. Well, being a principal was something that I did not want to do. In fact, I didn't want to be any administrator. So, for the following year, I said that I wanted to return to the classroom and teach, but at that time, then, they made me an assistant principal, along with teaching because they never wanted the school not to have a designated assistant to assume the administrative duties in case anything should happen. I don't think anyone should overlook the fact that it was my home high school and all the teachers, practically all the teachers teaching in the school, I had as teachers; and all of a sudden, I was thrust on stage to be their acting principal. It's not an easy job, considering that within itself, but then to be told that you had to be fit into a holding pattern and anyone who has been in administration knows that when you fit a school or an organization into a holding pattern, for a limited period of time, but not any great limit of time, a couple of weeks, but beyond a couple of weeks, you get greater and greater problems. So consequently, any decision that came up to be made I would have to say, "Well, can we hold on this one, and I'll get back to you." So it all became but that stock answer. Then I would have to go to the superintendent, if I could even get an appointment, to find him or get on his agenda and have him come back with what it would be. What essentially it was (the decision), was something different from what I thought should have been done, and something different from the person who was asking the question thought that it should be different. So, it really, a lot of times went with follow-up. Could it be so and-so. So, it's not very good to defend all the time and to hold things in a status quo position all the time and not make any changes whatsoever. It's not good for students. Students, faculty and parents all begin to notice this very quickly--that you're just a figure head and the only thing that you did was, oh yeah, you could deal with the student skipping a class, but for example, I can recall that was in the day where a female student didn't dare become pregnant and expect to continue in school and that whole negotiation, when a member of the Board of Supervisors daughter became pregnant, and having to deal with that whole situation, and the politics of what that whole situation, you just stay focused on one thing. I thought that I was a diplomat between the superintendent and parents or teachers or students or such things as that, which keep you in a holding pattern.
Q: Please discuss the way in which you learned to lead; that is, what procedures or experiences you were involved in that contributed to your effectiveness, and the contribution that professional graduate education made to your progress.
A: I think you learn to lead through experiences. I don't think anyone was born a leader. There is a philosophy out there that only leaders are born. I think people learn to lead through experience and what you do is you try things that will work. You abandon things that don't work. Another thing is you observe other people that lead. Generally, you observe the people you had in school before you. For example, a style of leadership I would like to say. I had a principal in my high school and his favorite thing to do was to clear his throat. He wouldn't speak to a student, but he would (hum hum)--clear his throat. That let the student know that he was there and he was on the scene at what was done. Then, if you didn't stop and corrected yourself, he corrected it for you, but he gave you that opportunity without ever saying anything. There was never any hollering at you; never any name calling, he just cleared his throat and if students didn't correct their behavior, it became very evident, very quickly that whenever the principal cleared the throat, you knew that he had observed something that he wanted the behavior changed. I think that you can take that a step further in leadership, because the thing in leadership is you want to get people to assume their responsibilities and perform in the proper manner; and it's not what they are going to have to read, what they are going to have to be told to do. A lot of times, the best things in the world is to get them to realize it. So, I think you observe that item of a style of leadership from one person. Then, you can observe another style of leadership like from a college professor, where leadership is as to time management, for example. His favorite thing was for a two week period, to just about get a stop watch and write down every single thing you did, to analyze how you spent all of your time and then take it and look at it and find out what did you spend time on that didn't produce anything; that didn't do anything for administration or an educational setting and if it didn't do anything, throw it away and don't use that. If it did something or worked effectively, then concentrate on that particular style. So, I think you learn to lead through experiences and through observation; through study and reading a variety of theories, a variety of philosophies, trying to identify people who use certain philosophies, and certain theories; trying to make it into concrete application and what works and what doesn't work. I don't think that there is any one particular style of leadership that fits all situations. I really think that it is observations and experiences.
Q: It has been said that good leaders encourage their subordinates and peers by staging celebrations of their successes, no matter how small or insignificant. To what extent did you engage in this practice during your tenure as principal, and to what extent did it improve morale and organizational effectiveness?
A: Well, the one thing that I think that you, as a principal, want to see, is that you want every single person to succeed in their role. You don't want to get the credit for helping. One of the things that you have to do as a leader is not worry about who gets the credit for something. If you got to get into the question of who gets credit for something and who does something, then it's going to lead to ineffectiveness because it gets into pettiness. What you do is you try to see that every single teacher succeeds; every single coach succeeds; every person working in an educational setting in the school, that they are successful as possible, because if every component is successful, and you are heading it as an administrator, then you are going to be successful by getting them to succeed. So, what you do is try, to what I consider, "the coaching theory." You try to coach people, rather than tell people what to do; you, I think, act like a cheerleader-coach. You try to praise what is done well far more than what you critique what doesn't go well. There are very few people that would not recognize when something did not go well. It would take a blooming idiot not to recognize something not going well. So they know it hasn't succeeded and gone well. So why stress that (failure); stress what is successful, from a cheer leading standpoint. Try congratulating, coaching, try emphasizing the positive. It is surprising how far that will go. A person will say, "Oh well, this was done and it was successful and I'm going to try this again and even more." You get people who then want to tell you their successes, instead of people at an institution come up to you and tell you everything that is wrong, they'll come up to you more frequently and say, "You ought to see these kids; they are doing so-and-so." So you just stress the positive. It seems to work far better because then you don't always have people with the gripes and the negatives and everything that isn't going well because they don't seem to want to tell you what's working, what they found out, what they've experienced. you have to listen to them, their experiences and you have to reinforce it, encourage them and it becomes like a coaching style. There are various tests out there that analyze leadership and tests that I've even taken on this have come back to me and said that it's like a coaching, almost like a cheer leading style of educational administration. I think that this is the more successful way than any other way.
Q: Some writers recommend that principals adjust their leadership styles to meet the individual needs of their staff. How do you feel about that idea and to what extent did you practice individualized leadership?
A: I think everybody's an individual and they are different. Therefore, you would have to lead each person slightly differently. That does not mean that you should abandon your total goals or your total perspectives, just because of them, but you should lead them in different manners. Some people get intimidated by an administrator very quickly and you have to make people feel at ease. The thing you do to make them feel at ease is, I think is not to be with them just once, you have to come back a second, third, or fourth time, so that they know . . . usually when an administrator walks in a teacher always thinks, "What did I do wrong?" or "What is the matter now?" So, you have to put away that type of thinking and that type of feeling very quickly and you try to get people to feel comfortable and you try to get people to talk and some people--people are just different. Some people don't feel at ease when you are talking with them, so you have to work with them to get them to understand. I think one of the things that you get them to try to do is that you try to get individuals to, what I call, "Know Thyself." If the person knows themselves, knows what they can do, and what limitations they have, then their limitations are not necessarily negatives. What they should do is stress their positives--stress what they can do--what they can do successfully. I think that you will get people to succeed. You have to find something good in the person and compliment them for their good. I think all too often, too many administrators make the mistake of trying to be the critic and critique them over something that's not good. I think what you do is, you find out what an individual can do the best and most successfully and you relate that to them. Now, if we find something that you might suggest to them you might say, "Have you ever thought of trying this?" Don't put it, "You should do so-and so." Because when you tell a person that, "You should do so-and so," or "I think you should be doing this," what you're doing is saying to the person what you're doing is wrong, and I know better than you do of what you should do is right. I think that's not as effective as if you praised them for what they are doing right, find out what their strengths are, related strengths to their effectiveness on the job. Then if you have something that you want to make a suggestion to, ask them have they ever thought of maybe that so-and-so might be something to do. You get them to thinking about it. Once they think that that's the way it ought to be done, they don't deal in their defenses that, "You ought to do so-and-so." They don't dig their heels. You try to ask them if they have ever thought of approaching a problem from another way. Phrase it in their thinking of it so that when they follow and the thought is in their mind, it becomes their idea to do it. Then, when they do it, remember it's not your idea, it's theirs. Then go back to them and say, "Remember that idea that we were talking about, you tried so-and-so, and that really worked didn't it?" That's the way you frame it to get them to change, but you have to realize that people are different. You have to operate in their particular style of differences to get them to improve; but, you should not change their overall perspective or goal, it's just the style of getting to that goal.
Q: Some principals hold the view that teachers and other staff members are, in general, well motivated and reliable self-starters. Other principals feel that they must closely monitor the activities of their employees to insure that they are performing "to standard." What supervisory approach did you customarily use during your career as principal?
A: I think the thing that you do is you let them operate in their style until you see that their style is not working well or is not the most effective. Then, you work with them to try to get them to change their style. I don't think that what you do is say, "Hey, I've got to be the supervisor; I've got to be the person to overlook you and bring you up to this standard." First, it's negative. Second, you're not really working with the person, because you're saying, "Hey, you're not up to par." Then the person might say to you, "Well, what is 'par?'" or "What should it be?" It becomes a defensive battle or personalities get into it and all. If you take people as being very professional and accept them as professional and you accept them as being motivated to do the job, then I think you encourage the, you coach them, and when I say, "coach them," what you're doing there is, in a style of coaching, you try to get them to have a game plan to accomplish the goal or what you expect in a school. By and large, I find more people respond to, successfully, when you think that you're altogether on the same team. When you talk about monitoring or assessing or getting people up to a standard, you're almost creating an adversarial relationship. It's true--some people have to be monitored and looked at. Some people would never report to work on time, would leave early, would be lax in what they're doing, if you just let them be completely free. I'm not talking about that. You have to get people to perform to certain levels and certain standards, but what you do, you do it through encouraging and coaching them and through their realizing the "game plan" of what they expect, what goals, strategies they want to employ to get to those goals in education and; if you see a particular goal and it's not down there and you think the goal should be there, you respond to them and say, "Now, wouldn't you want those goals to include thus-and so?" Nine times out of ten, they will agree with you on that, and then it becomes their idea. Then say, "Let's see what we can do to get you to that standard." They may come up with, "Well, here's one strategy and a third strategy. If you thought of another or different strategy, don't say, "different." Ask them, "Have you ever thought of X or Y?" When they hear this, most people, generally, will think that's something. You don't tell them, "You ought to try so-and-so." Because that puts them down. What you are really saying to someone, "Hey, you are not doing it and you need to do thus-and-so in order to do it." Or you might tell a personal instance in which you've been involved in a strategy in which it worked. This is an example of when you had similar circumstances or what may have worked; or anything that you can do to get that person to think of it as their strategy and their thoughts and then when it's used, make sure you come back and say, "You know what you kid with that kid really worked." You reinforce by praising successes of what works. You reinforce it as though it is their ideas, their thought and their work and you praise. People will respond to praise. People will respond to enthusiasm. It has a rippling effect. When you get them to see it, and it becomes theirs--they've bought into it. It doesn't become yours and theirs. That's what you do by having people or seeing them as motivators of self-starters. The other thing is that it nourishes new ideas and thoughts of their own. When you say, "You ought to do so-and-so," they say, "Well, this is what he thinks. Well, I won't think of what needs to be done in the next situation; maybe I should go and ask what this should be." So it means that it creates dependency. I think that you ought to foster independence and leadership, for a person to be independent and on their own--that they are independent and self-reliant and that they are creative and can think of solutions to problems and can do the job in a satisfactory manner.
Q: One model of leadership describes people as either assertive, supportive or contemplative. Would you please categorize yourself and give your reasons for this assignment?
A: Well, I think that there are people that tease me about being assertive. I think some people call it assertiveness, it's mainly because of longevity. I notice that the longer I've been in educational administration, it's really interesting. I can say the same thing now and I said it twenty years ago and people, they pay far more attention to it now than they did twenty years ago. Twenty years ago, they would say, "Well, who is he saying it?" Well now, if you get into the same position and you've been in educational administration . . .
Q: There are those who argue that the principal should be an instructional leader, and those that suggest that, realistically speaking, this person must be, above all, a good manager. Would you give your views on this issue and describe your own style?
A: When you talk about a good manager, I have problems with the word "manager" and "leader," because when "leader," I think, is leading a school from "A" to "B." From a "manager," I think, is someone who manages a school at "B." You don't ever get to "A." You just manage it and it's too much . . . you don't ever let it slip, and you don't let it go backward, but you don't generally move it forward. But, I think a principal should be an instructional leader in the fact that you recognize the student as being paramount and instruction is the most important thing; but, I don't think that you can have a principal to be all things to all people; and so, therefore, you don't have a principal who can be, set school climate, know, be on top with instruction and curriculum, be with administration, parents and telephone and to juggle all these things within the time. I think what you do to get a school to succeed is that you staff the school, administratively, with the best possible people, and if at all possible, support the principal by appointing an assistant principal, designated just for curriculum and instruction, whose specialty is just that area; and then another principal whose specialty is administration with discipline and school climate and matters like that in dealing with students. I think that works better because in today's world, with the telephone, the mail, with parents coming in all the time, demands placed on school, a principal is going to have to just deal with emergencies and what usually happens is instruction and curriculum and planning goes by the wayside, unless you staff the school adequately and with the best administration possible and generally speaking, I don't think you should have, it doesn't work as well, when you've got two people in administration that are exactly cut of the same cloth. If they have a variety of specialties it works better; that doesn't mean that they shouldn't have the same chemistry to get along together as a team.
Q: During the past decade, schools have become much larger, especially here in Prince Edward. Discuss your views on this phenomenon and suggest an ideal size for a school in terms of optimal administrative and instructional activities.
A: Well, our elementary school has gotten too large. We had the vision of having all of our schools located on one campus and I guess because we'd been so successful in attracting so many students to our school, is that the elementary school has gotten too large; we are contemplating making that three schools within one school setting. That doesn't mean that you couldn't have three separate schools within the setting because all colleges have, they'll have the School of Business, the School of Commerce and the School of Engineering, and the School of Education and they all are on campus and they can all be under one particular umbrella setting. You could have three different schools under one setting and you could utilize common facilities, such as multipurpose rooms, libraries, or cafeteria, or such things as this and still cut down on expense. I think the optimal situation is when it gets to the extent that it becomes so cumbersome, that it is impeding progress and then I think that is when you need to see that it becomes smaller. When you get to the other end of it, and a school becomes so small that it can not offer the services and the programs and the subjects that for a diverse population, then I think that it has become too small. So, it's an optimum size given to a community, given to a student body, I think a school should be; and I do think that we had the pendulum going away from the one room school to consolidation, to consolidation, to consolidation until it has gotten to be where, probably it realized that sometimes you can lose the personal dealings with students and understandings with parents and it becomes just too large. I think that is when the time comes when you need to take another look at it--maybe having smaller schools.
Q: Given the presence of administrative complexity, if there were three areas of administration that you could change in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of educational administration, what would they be?
A: I think that three of the areas today is that I think that you have to realize that the most important person in the school is the student. So really, the focus really has to be, a focus has to be instruction, but yet, I've never found any . . . it's very seldom that you find a teacher that's weakness is that they don't know the subject matter. It's usually that they can't deal with other people; and it's in a personal relationship. So, we get into these interpersonal relationships because schools are people, what I find is the one thing that needs to be honed to a greater extent today. Teachers dealing with students as people; administrators dealing with teachers as people in interpersonal relationships that go on within schools. Generally, teachers, when you find deficient teachers, they are usually the ones that can't manage the classroom and its behavior and they can't manage children and they do not know how to get children to stay on task and work effectively. Generally, if it's administrators who are not effective, is that they stump their toe on finance. Two biggest issues in Virginia today are two school systems--Virginia Beach and New Kent stumbled their toes tremendously, system-wide on finances and have over spent. The public will not support a school that has anything financial out of order. The public will not support anything instructional out of order. If the test scores, and the students don't do well, and you have drop out, the public will not support a school in which its discipline has gone all awry. So, they are three areas--climate, classroom management/discipline of a school, instruction to get optimum learning by students, and the third is finances within a school management of financial records and strict finance within a school or in a school system and keep it orderly. If you have any of those three, the public today is going to find someone deficient and so, I rate, because the public demands today, much stronger than anything else in those three areas, I call three primary areas that educational leaders have to be very closely attuned to. An educational leader . . . there are other aspects to a school that an educational leader, the public might permit them some leeway, but they are not going to permit any leeway on finances. They are not going to permit any leeway in case of chronic behavioral problems consistent within a school and they are not going to permit students in school that . . . you've got to have the drop out rate reduced, you've got to have students going to college improved, you've got to have high test scores, which is instruction. So they are the three areas of concentration that I think educational leaders have to be attuned to more so than anything else. We can talk about philosophy; we can talk all about school plans and architectural design in school buildings, all about school functions with buildings, and different aspects of it--a great deal of things was law. I think that the thing for a school system to do today is hire a good lawyer. Pay them to do that . . . any time it comes to something on it with advice with that. I'm not saying that school leaders should not be up on school plans and architectural design, buildings, and functions of buildings, I think that they should be up on law. I think they should be up on various philosophies of education and theories of education. I think educational leaders should be up on these three areas. If the leader does not perform well in those three areas, the public is going to remove the leader and the first one that they are going to remove them on anything else is going to be finances. You have one penny of corruption in a school system, you're out. The public is not going to permit that, in the day of safe schools and good school climate and things like that. If you can not keep a good school today and have good school climate and conducive to learning, administrators will be out. The public may allow an administrator slight more leeway with instructional matters, might understand in case drop out does not continue to reduce; it may be that you can not continually improve students going to college or you can't improve certain student results or test scores. It may be a blimp in it that they don't improve every year--come down and things go back up, something like that, but by and large, if they continue to decline in any aspect, administrators will be out.
Q: Cultural diversity is a topic of great interest and concern at this point in time. Would you discuss the nature of your student body and comment on the problems, challenges and triumphs in which you participated while serving as principal.
A: I think culturally diversity is a plus because we live in a world population, we live on a globe and on an earth today in which we are becoming very small by communication and travel. So, I think cultural diversity is a plus in understanding cultural diversity is a plus. I would rate any school that is diverse in culture a much stronger school than a school that is only one facet of culture. I came through the throes, I was educated in a segregated system because it was the law. I came through the throes, in administration, when integration first occurred. I learned very quickly that the best way to succeed in integration was through understanding and not trying resistance. Resistance only heightens anxieties and tensions. The best thing is to do something before you have to do it. As an educational leader, I was in a situation in which you had two different teacher organizations--one black and one white. If you're coming into an integrated thing, why wait until you are forced to combine into one? Why not go ahead and on your own, reach out and say, "Hey, we're all about the same thing, why not let's combine it into one?" Now, grant you, when you come through the era of the sixties, that was not always a popular, not a popular stance to take, but it's one that I think is successful; and I think is what you do is, I came through the circumstances in which a school integrated for a first time, and what you try to do, is that you try to be cognizant of what you can do best for the individual or those individual students. I know that the first time that it was integrated, there were two young ladies in high school--coming into high school and they wanted, because they were so afraid that they would be the only two of their race at that school, that they wanted to have lockers close together, and I said, "Sure, why not?" In other words, they wanted some support mechanism within school. They wanted classes the same schedules so that they could be in classes. I said, "Sure, why not, that's what their choice of classes were?" Now, I can tell you that that did not meet too well. There were some people that preferred that they have different schedules so that we could have twelve integrated classes, rather than six integrated classes, just for the record to show that, but I think that it is more important as to what works best for the students; and so, there is no problem in those years of integration. In this system, in Prince Edward, I have been in the exact opposite role, in which we are the only school system within the United States that was an all minority race school system to have 40% white influx into a system, without changing geographical boundaries, without court orders, without any boundaries of consolidation or anything else, just the system stayed as it is. The only thing you did was improve the school system, improve instruction. If you improve your product, people will come and buy it. They didn't have to buy it in this system, it was already paid for through taxes but they selected it. They had a choice and you know, as well as I know living here, that the white population did not support this school system. They were not . . . no businesses, almost totally the Board of Supervisors, almost totally the School Board abandoned its public school system. Closed it and just left it. What it had to be was, it had to be reopened- redone, piece by piece. Today, it is attracting some of the very ancestors that fought it so hardly. Out of the only thing that it could have been was the choice to send their children to a private school or to somewhere else. The fact is you have to have programs within a school to meet a diverse program, in which people feel welcome and feel like that they can have a niche in a school and succeed. So, I have always thought of diversity as being a plus. We've had exchange students from other cultures. This year, we've had five visiting teachers from another culture to come into the school system. The students were just thrilled. If they weren't in school or weren't in the classroom, they would ask, "Where is the Japanese teacher today?" In other words, I think that you find it helps to bridge gaps and bridge understanding and bridge relationships with people and we understand that people are different, irrespective of their race or of their background or cultures; and we should not categorize people as all being alike because they are of one race, culture or background. People are different on it and it helps to bridge this and make this a better understanding and I think that when students are educated in this type of climate, they go through school and they are better to meet the challenges of the world population, which is diverse and of many different cultures, and many different languages, and of many different ideas. They will face that (cultural diversity), rather than being one-faceted, one culture, one race, one society.
Q: Would you describe your personal philosophy of education. How did it evolve over the years?
A: Well, I think that the key to a philosophy of education has to be student-oriented. You have to state that the student is the most important person in the school and when you say this, teachers get miffed. Administrators get miffed. I've even had people on the School Board to look at me and like, "Oh, let's just off that." We get caught up in education today in various aspects. I have heard battles over which textbook to adopt or which style of cursive writing you should teach or whether you should teach phonics or whole language or whether . . . all of these little battles in education today and all with it--and you lose track of the whole thing of what works best for that student, and that student, and that student, and that student, which makes up the student population. I think what you have to have, you have to have buildings, and budgets, and textbooks, and curriculum, and teachers, and everything, but they must be child-centered and student-centered and the philosophy is of meeting the needs of the student. I'm not the least bit taken back when I'm in a classroom and talking to a teacher and a student walks up and asks the teacher something and the teacher stops. The teacher looks like they are offending me when they stop talking to go to see what the student's need is. I think that is by far the most responsible thing to do. I think it would be irresponsible if the teacher just ignored the student because that's what we're here for and a lot of times, we fight our turf wars in education without looking, realistically, to what it is . . . so, I think that you have a philosophy of education recognizing who's the most important person in the school system-- in a school, classroom or whatever setting it is with education--is the student. The second thing I think that you have to have is a flexible and supportive, and try to get through, a well planned goal, to achieve the greatest possible that you can for that student. So, it should be through flexibility because students are different and you want to do what is best, and what is right for every student. Consequently, sometimes, and sometimes, that particular student may not see that what you're doing is best for that student or that particular parent may not see eye-to-eye what is best for that particular child, but I think that you try to do the best that you can for it. So you don't have to stay awake at night--you can sleep and say, "I've done the best that we could do to solve the problem for that child."
Q: What kinds of things do teachers expect principals to be able to do? Describe your views on what it takes to be an effective principal, describing the personal and professional characteristics of the "good principal."
A: I think a principal needs to be supportive of teachers. I think principals need to do everything possible to see that the teacher can get the job in which he or she is assigned to do at the very best possible. I think a principal should listen, should have a great degree of listening to teachers because teachers are the primary contact with the students in the very variety of subjects. If you listen to the teacher, then you get first-hand, professional view of what's going on in each class or each classroom in a school. I think that you should try to be supportive of teachers if, if you, as the administrator, determine that that's in the best interest of the student. Sometimes teachers want to fight turf wars or certain battles in education, without looking as to what's best for students. A case and point: A teacher has said, who taught Algebra II, said that she didn't think that her students were prepared well in Algebra I. There was a complaint. So then, the principal assigned her Algebra I to teach and she got highly miffed over it; and he said, "Well, if you've complained about everybody else and how they prepared it (Algebra I), I'm asking you to do it; because I'm giving you the ball to do this because you have been the critic on this, so I'm going to ask you to teach this." Her first retort was, "You expect me to teach that low level? I was going to teach the Algebra II." Well, you see, the point is he more or less gave her the ball and said, "You pitch this game of Algebra I and when they (the students) get through, then we'll see if they are prepared." What I'm saying is, that you can't have your cake and eat it too, as an example. Sometimes teachers want a principal in that type of position, and what I call is a Catch-22 situation--you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't, with it. I think, really and truly, that the teacher was, more or less, making an excuse, because if the students weren't prepared well enough, it was a ready made excuse that the student that exited Algebra II wasn't going to be prepared well enough either. I think this was a way that this administrator, well, just put the ball in the teacher's court and said that's what it will be and then when you teach these students Algebra II, they'll be better prepared. What I'm saying by this is the principal should be supportive of teachers and persons on the staff, but a principal should also be supportive, always cognizant of what's in the best interest for the students. Sometimes teachers can get awfully unfair, when dealing with students. For example, the teacher that has the same test for the last 20 years and includes items on a test that has (sic) never been taught in a classroom. That's not in the best interest of students and I don't think that a principal should be supportive of a principal like that. I think the principal ought to say, "Hey, if you haven't taught questions 6, 10, 15 on this to these students, then you don't need to have this included on the examination." I'm not talking about in every instance and in every time. I think that it should be rational, but that's an example. I think, sometimes, teachers do things with students that are a little bit out of line. I think principals have to be the one that they stay within line and support what's best for students. I think principals should be supportive. They should be . . . by supportive, I mean, to get the teacher motivated as best possible, to do the best possible job in teaching the children. That's not always easy.
Q: Would you give us an overall comment on the pros and cons of administrative service and any advice you would wish passed along to today's principals.
A: I think principals sometimes, a principal's job is sometimes a lonely job because the principal is the only person in that school that's principal. A lot of times principals go into the job by saying, "Hey, if I can get all the teachers on my side or if I can get all the students on my side, I can be successful." I don't think that you need to be worried about getting them on your side. I don't think there are "sides" to it. There should be a goal for what's in the best interest of students. Principals should be fair, understanding, good listener, but they shouldn't think of it that if they'll let the students do what they want to do or let the faculty do what they want to do, that they'll be friendly. Because I want to say this, I think that that's one of the worst things that anyone could ever do. A lot of new teachers make that mistake. You walk into the classroom and they say, "Well, I want to be a friend of all students and then, after awhile, I'll tighten down and get them to do and . . ." It will never work that way. You start off with what your expectation should be--you should set them as high as possible, as high as attainable, that you could possibly see that they could be attained and you should have those expectations of teachers, you should have those expectations of students and you should be flexible, you should be supportive, you should try to work with the same techniques that coaches use, by coaching style, compliments, successes, and try to create an atmosphere in which teachers want to work, and where students want to come to school, and students want to learn. I think that if a person is going into it for what they are going to get out of it, such as money or what they are going to get out of it as power, they're going into the wrong profession. Now, if they want to go into it, as what they are going to get out of it, by how they can get other people to succeed, the student to succeed that didn't want to go to college and you encourage them, you suggested that they go to college. Today, they've gone to college and looked at what they've done with their success and what they've made of themselves in life, because education is the opportunity. Then, you can look with that with pride, then that would be a reason to go into educational administration today, but if you are going to look at it for what you are going to personally get out of it, that's not the place to go. If you can look at it as how you can improve the quality of life for other people and the successes that you can get other people to do or to succeed then, that's the thing to go into. I would say to try to be flexible, patient, calm, but deliberate to achieve the highest goals attainable for every teacher and every student. Then, I think that you ought to go into educational administration.
Q: What would you state has been your greatest contribution to public education?
A: I think that the greatest contribution has been being able to see people succeed, that have been to school. When you see teachers that come on staff, that's fresh out of college, and they're successful in teaching or you see students that come to school that really may not have had the parental support or may not have had the home conditions and they succeed, and whatever their successes are, and you can see them succeed. I think that's the greatest contribution that you can make by formulating a program and a school or school system that will work for the benefit of students to have the success.
Q: Despite my best efforts to be comprehensive in my questions, there is probably something I have left out. What have I not asked you that I should have?
A: Well, I want to say this. There was a time that everyone wanted to get into educational administration. I don't see that today. I see people today trying to take the easy road out in education. If you want the easy road out, like the lady that called me and said, "Do you have some small elementary school that's way away in some section of the county that's kind of in the remote area of the county?" In other words, where you could be left alone to do your thing and not be bothered. I'd be interested in educational administration if you have something like that, but if somebody's looking for that, they are not going to find that in education and some people are looking for, what they feel like is the quiet office job, where they won't have, be harangued by the public or other people--they're looking into the wrong profession because education is people--I don't care what area that you get into. So, I think what today is, we do not have the incentives for people to want to really come into education today. I think that we have to try and go back and recreate those incentives. Really, you're in education today to try to improve society because education is a known and proven fact that education improves the quality of life for our citizens and if you improve the quality of life for citizens, and improve all economic, social, every aspect of society. So, therefore, I think that if you want to improve your society, education probably has as great of an advantage in working to try to improve society today, as any other occupation. I think we have to reprogram or rethink exactly why, and package education today that it's more attractive. I think that we find the statement, "Those that can't do anything else teach," is becoming too great a factor today because education has a tendency to lower its standards or lower its susceptibility and I think that that should be changed. I think that we should make it more aspiring and more attractive to entice high quality young people of good standards, good morals, good leadership qualities, good role models to come into education today to improve students and therefore improve the quality of life.
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