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Q: Okay, it's running now. Okay. All right.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Well, let's see.
Q: Let's start over at. . .
A: I'll just tell you the number of years that I have.
A: Altogether, I had 33 years in education. I taught 16 1/2 years, and I had 8 years as a principal, and then I went to the central office, and served as director of the federal program--Title I, now Chapter I--and 6 years as Director of Elementary Education. I retired in 1980, a little early, but I think at an appropriate time because I felt that things were going well at that point.
Q: Would you talk about how you became a principal?
A: Would you like to hear that? I had not planned to be a principal, and not in my wildest dream. I was happy as a classroom teacher, and I believe maybe my happiest days may have been spent in the classroom. I was a primary teacher, and my major in the University of North Carolina was in primary education. So, I felt very comfortable with that age child. When I--after I had taught three years in Olive Branch School, my principal passed away very suddenly two weeks before school opened, and the superintendent asked me to serve as acting principal and open the school for that year. I had been the teaching assistant principal. I had a few extra little jobs and so forth, but I actually had had no training as a principal. But, on the advice of a central office administrator, I went--I began my master's program at the College of William and Mary, to which I owe a very great debt because I really feel that I got an excellent sendoff as a principal, and then I had the--I think, looking back--fortunate experience of on-the-job training from a good many administrators in the Portsmouth school system and at William and Mary. Our school was about 450 to 500 children when I took it over as acting principal, and we had 16 teachers, grades one through six--a staff of 25. It was a neighborhood school at that time. We had no busing. I say ideal because in that respect I had the opportunity to know every child and all the parents. It was just--I can't tell you--how really--it was a thrill and it was--I would say they were a low-to-middle income--not too low, probably middle--not really any high--maybe one or two, but not really high--and our greatest success, I think--in the testing program at that time, was that our children scored higher than the Churchland children, which delighted us no end. Our teachers were very thrilled with that, and so were the children. They knew it, and we shared that with them. I think that probably my biggest headache was the physical plant. I always felt that my time would have been better spent all on instruction and working with children, teachers, and parents. But you know sometimes the furnace would go off, and the roof would leak, and even though it was a new building we had a lot of kinks in it, and that did occupy some of my time that I regretted. I wished for--at that time--for a full-time assistant. I think every school ought to have one regardless of size. My teaching assistant was a fourth-grade--happened to be a fourth-grade teacher--well, at one time she was fifth--and naturally she was so tied up in the classroom all day long, that I certainly couldn't pull her. So, it puts a great--it just puts, really, a burden on one person. And, when we integrated--when the faculties integrated--this was in the--oh, I'd say mid-sixties, really--about 64, I believe was what was the year, and we were very fortunate to have two really good black teachers who came to us from other schools and our--they were quite well-received by our parents. I felt that was a real plus for us. Now, I think that one reason why they were is because they were so good as teachers and there was no--I saw no signs of any partiality or whatever from them. Now, I think that we were prepared for this, too. We as a faculty had realized that certainly we would have some integration. Now we did have freedom of choice at that time, before busing, and we had a few black children who--whose parents chose to send them, which was rather interesting. They were Navy families, and they had heard about our school from other people, so they had--they took it--took the opportunity of placing them with us, and they were very good students. We felt that they certainly did well. We had a class of special education in this school too. I know that there's much talk about mainstreaming, and I worked some with it when I was Director of Elementary Education, but our class there, as I look back, was accepted by the other children and by the teachers in a really great way. I sound like I'm really sounding our horn, but you know, I meet people today--I meet former students and parents, because I live in this community where the school is, and they will say to me, "Oh, weren't they wonderful days," which just makes you feel marvelous.
A: Another hangup that I had, that I had to really overcome--I was very accustomed to talking in the classroom to my children and with my children. I had--we had assembly programs, which I loved to do with them, but when it came to the first PTA meeting, when I had to stand up before all those hundreds of parents, I was extremely nervous. I think about that today. It took me some time to overcome this. There's a different way of talking to adults, as you know, than it is to children--in away. But I think that I was lucky in that I discovered that if you tell it like it is and you don't try to "varnish the truth", I suppose is the way you could put it, you are way ahead of the game. You must be honest in what you say to parents. We had very little problems. Now, parents--I believe in reacting to parent complaints or parent questions and I felt at the time and I still do that when you do have a call from a parent it should be taken care of immediately. I did believe--and I still believe this--that principals should defend their teachers. In that I mean they should be united with the proper goals and objectives. Now I do think there are times when a principal has to really take a stand. I think that you don't have to embarrass your teacher in front of a parent or that kind of thing, but I do think that you have an opportunity to work out any weaknesses with that teacher, and I think you have to be kind, but I think you have to say, "There is a problem and this is what we can do." You must have the solution, or a solution to offer. I don't think that you should ever criticize and not be able to back it up and give some help. And that was what we found over there, working as a faculty. It was a small faculty, you see, but there were various and sundry personalities, naturally, and each one had strengths and weaknesses--and I certainly did myself--but we had a real working group. I leaned on the teachers because I needed them, you see, to help me make it a good school, and they had a lot to offer, believe me. At the time we had projects for Southern Association--I don't know whether they still do or not, but we did--and one of the best projects we had was a mathematics one. This was chosen by this faculty because they felt it was a weakness, see. A lot of them said, "I'm afraid of math," you know. And we used our math supervisor in the system, we used all kinds of things. We wrote a guide, and right today I have people say to me--certain ones who are left--"I'm still using it. I have it." It was one of the best things that we ever did, and in doing that, we learned a lot about each other. See, that, I think, is what you have to accomplish in working with people. I'm talking now when I worked with principals, too. I worked with them in the same way that I had worked with my teachers. I expected them--they're all professional people, they had a lot to offer, a lot to give. Now I do think that there does come a time when you, as the head administrator you have to take a stand. And you have to be consistent. You can't do one thing one day and the next day turn around and upset the apple cart and do something else entirely different. There has to be a feeling of respect--for you as an administrator, and they'll work their heads off for you, and for the children, because after all, I think we had a child-centered school. I certainly hope it was. We tried to do the very best we could in giving each child the best education. Now that sounds like, you know, gobbledegook that you hear in education all the time, but this is really what it's all about. You want each child to work up to his potential. You don't care about IQ, you care about what that child achieves. What does he really give you? Now, you know yourself in being in the gifted program that a child may have a marvelous IQ but does not work up to it. So therefore what good is it? And we believed--and I still believe this--that you can develop these potentials in these children to the highest degree, and this is what we tried to do. And when I went on to the Title I program, which was really a good education for me, because as I say, I had not worked with disadvantaged children until that time, and I had three years in which to learn that all children are the same regardless, you know, what background they come from. They want to learn and they need to have--you have to build that ego, make them want to live up to what they can do and even exceed that, if possible. So I did learn that just because you come from a disadvantaged home--you can certainly achieve. And this is what we tried to do in the federal program, and give them every opportunity for it, not just because the federal government and state government said do this. And then in elementary, when I worked with all of the schools, I had gotten over my stage fright of talking to adults, fortunately, but I believe in committee work. I think that you should try to capitalize on administrators' and teachers' strengths and utilize them in teaching--we learn from them--teaching others, you see. I think that committees, not just for committees' sake, but actual working committees of teachers--I know that when I was there they developed guides and we had really good workshops, and they meant something. I'm sorry to say since--but I'm sorry to hear that the language arts 'blue card,' as we called it, has been discarded, because the teachers developed it and it was good. And it worked with any reading series. I think the green math card was excellent, too. They both were revised two or three times, as you know, but they--in the end, I felt very good about leaving them. It was kind of a legacy, you know. I felt good about it. The report cards and so forth had all been revised by teachers with parent input, and so forth, and the principals worked hard on it, too. So that everything was really coordinated and I guess the best thing I can say about my years was that I tried to have a great deal of involvement of people, and I really believe in being honest and truthful about children.
Q: What do you think the teachers expect a principal to be?
A: Well, it's funny, after you asked me about this, I remembered my thesis that I wrote for William and Mary and it was "The Elementary School Principal: Perceptions and Expectations of the Role," and I pulled it out and I reread it. I really had forgotten about it, but it's pure research because the professor we had, Dr. Geoffroy, who's still there, insisted that we not have secondhand information, that it was really pure research. And I realize that teachers--I think they expect--well, I did, as a teacher--expect to respect this person in that role. I think that's one of the first things, and I'm not saying set yourself up on a pedestal. I'm saying that as a teacher I wanted to respect the person who was helping me do my job. Now, that's one thing. Another thing. I think that that person in that role who was principal or administrator should be thoroughly professionally prepared. I think you need a very strong background of information. In my own situation, I think I said I was primary oriented, so I had to really learn grades 4, 5, and 6, and I learned it from the teachers. And I think that when you are big enough to admit that you don't know everything, a teacher very much respects that in a person--not just a teacher--everybody does, I think. And you must be willing to say, "How do you do this?" Now, many times I would go to the sixth grade teachers and say, "Look, there's a problem here and I don't know how to work it. Now, show me how you teach this." And I think that they--that our teachers finally didn't pay any attention to me in the classroom, which was very good. The relationship that we had--they trusted me. And when we sat down to do evaluations, it was not a shocker because I had--at that time I kept a spiral notebook, which I did not write on in the classroom I was observing. I did not take notes--I don't believe in that. I had a principal who did that to me one time, and it very much rattled me, so I did not take notes while they were in action. But I do think that you--after you've made an observation, you must go back and sit down alone and put down your thoughts. Then I think, you see, the teacher expects you--you've been in that room--to tell her--what is it that you saw? Always find something good--and there's always something good there. For heaven's sakes don't be, you know, pessimistic and critical. I have seen supervisors like this--I've had them and they are shattering to teachers. Just ruins a teacher. A teacher has to know that--"Look," you say, "Well, now look, this was fine, but now what about so-and-so? Don't you think we could do this?" And give some help. Where can she go to get it? Or how can she do it? And you might have to go in there and teach a little lesson. I did that--if--I don't say that I did it a great many times because I didn't have to, but I did participate in the classes, and I think that you should. I had a principal who had done that with me, and I liked that. This principal was afraid of first grade, just as I was of sixth grade, and he would come in and say "Let me fold myself into this little chair and you tell me what to do." And so you learn, you see, from people. But you do have to have this respect and you do have to have a trust in this person as an administrator, I think, for it to be successful. And you have to be able to talk to that person. I've had some supervisors that I was afraid to talk to, and I don't mean that you have to go in and act like a--advice to the lovelorn kind of thing--I don't mean that--but there is a side to that, too. If you do have a personal problem, sometimes, if you trust this person as an administrator to be professional, which they should be, it does not hurt to say, "Look, I've got this--I want you to be aware of it because I don't want it to affect my teaching." I've had teachers do that, and I very much appreciate that. However, once it's told to you as an administrator, it should be like between you and the priest--it should not go elsewhere. Don't talk to other teachers about a teacher. Don't go out and--don't do it--don't talk to one principal about another. You have to be so fair, and it's not easy. It's one of the most difficult jobs in the world. I do feel that the public--the parents--well, I think there's been a change in this, but I think the public wants to respect this person in authority. And you've always got to put your best foot forward. I'm not talking about making up tales and saying we're going to do this and we're going to do that. For goodness sake don't do that, because--until you do it. And the children speak for you. You know this. I don't have to tell you--you're one of the best teachers that we ever had--but they do. They are your best public relations. I'm not talking about singing or dancing or anything else. I'm talking about what the child really does and says and learns, because that's why we're there. And we are public servants. That's another thing. We are public servants, and we owe the public a good deal.
Q: We've probably covered this. . .
A: We probably have--I have really rambled. . .
Q: But that's good--you're really covering the things that we need to know. They don't have to be in any particular order, and I think. . .
A: I don't know how you're going to make anything out of this hodgepodge I'm giving you.
Q: It's wonderful. I'm enjoying every minute of it. You've talked a little bit about the problems. What pressures did you feel you faced as a principal?
A: Well, I guess originally I had a real fear that I would not be adequate for the job. And I felt--I think it was not a real pressure--but I felt that it was, from the central office on me to show that I could be a principal. And I always, you know, wanted everything to work well, but I felt, you see, not having the master's and not having at that previous stage the real desire to be one--it never dawned on me that I should. Now, you do get much pressure from the community. They have expectancies for their children, naturally, and we have to produce. So there is that underlying pressure of knowing that you must get the teachers, the staff, and everybody else to work together to produce this wonderful child instruction. You know what I'm trying to say. It's always there. I was fortunate--let me back up a little bit. When I first went in as principal and followed this wonderful man, who was, I thought, just great, I had to show or prove myself to this community. They didn't know me other than as a first-grade teacher, and that part was fine, but you're always going to have somebody--and I think rightly so--to question you and to put you on guard, so to speak, so that you are going to do the very best that you can. You have people who are going to needle you. You have people who don't like you. Now, I had a few who did not respect me because I was a woman. And they let you know it. And so you have that kind of pressure. And then you have peer pressure from other principals. Consciously or unconsciously there is such a thing as professional jealousy, and when I became Director of Elementary Education I felt that. I was surprised in some areas. In others I was delighted with the reaction. But you're going to get it on whatever level you are. If you are a master teacher and you--for instance, if you get into merit pay, you are going to have criticism from certain ones because you're good and because you have been selected. Now that's life. It was hard for me to learn--when I became--when I came out of the classroom I'm sorry to say I had one or two teacher friends who bitterly resented my being a principal. And I was just devastated at first, but you develop--I suppose it's a professional hard shell in a way. You learn to roll with the punches. And if you don't, you better get out of it. If you don't have a sense of humor, and you can't find something good in everything, then you better not get in this profession. It's just not for people like that. But there are people there--and that is the thing that I think really upset me more than anything else when I saw bad teaching--and I have seen it. Now let's see. We were talking about people who should never go into the teaching profession--and there are some who should never be teachers. In the first place, they don't like children, and you have to like children if you're going to do it. And I'm not talking about picking them up and hugging them. I'm talking about genuinely appreciating what children are all about. And there, I did see some evidences, unfortunately, in classrooms, where teachers were so wrapped up in themselves and their objectives and what they had to do that they forgot all about the children and why they were there. And I don't think that people like that have any business teaching. I hate to see children loaded down with busywork and copying from the board all day long. That used to drive me up the wall, and I had a very difficult time staying in classrooms like that and maintaining my composure. But I was going to say--everybody's not supposed to be a teacher. I was never supposed to be a mechanic, you see, because I can't do things like that. I used to do things like, you know, putting the reel on the projector and then I'd get so busy with the children looking at the picture--one time the whole thing just went all over the floor--and I just got up and left with them--and that is a true story. Oh, dear, I know that principal could have killed me. But anyway--now--where were we?
Q: What did you do with a teacher who was not doing what you felt was right?
A: Well, I had one, when I was a principal, who was one of the nicest, sweetest persons you've ever met. And the children liked her--but she couldn't teach. She couldn't get across the message. The discipline was dreadful in that they sort of climbed all over her, and at that time we were made a laboratory school for student teaching. And so central office said that we had to weed out those who were not really good examples of teaching because the students were coming in from ODU and Norfolk State, you see. So--this was very hard for me. I talked with her. It happened to be she was a lady. We did have one or two men teachers, I'm glad to say. I'd like to see more men teachers in elementary. I think that's happening. She was rather--she broke down and she cried, and I told her that I was very sorry, but that the system was going to give her another opportunity in another situation, which was what the central office personnel thought that we should do. I did talk with her principal--I don't like the idea of shoving them off on another school. That's not it. You have to really bite the bullet. But I told her that she had these areas where she was terribly weak, and she just had to get some help, but because we were going to have this school, which had to be exemplary, she would have to transfer. She taught, I think, for a year or two after that, and her principal told me that she herself just left--just resigned. I think she was married again, or something like that. Well, then I had another very difficult situation, with a black teacher who came to our school. I think I mentioned the fact that we were fortunate in having two very good ones. This one had a master's degree and she was about the third or fourth one that we had, and because we had such high expectancies in this school on everybody's part, she was not able to live up to any of it--which, really, I don't know that I've ever had a situation upset me quite that much. I had--well, I tried to help her. I got the supervisors to help her--the specialists--whatever you want to call them--to go in and teach for her, and everything. She went and observed somewhere else. But she had taught 24 years before she came to me, and to us, and this was what was so bad. I did not know whether it was the effect of all the white children on her--I mean, I think you have to say it that way because she was not accustomed to it. And just--it works both ways, you know, in some instances, but it did with her, I think. So I had compiled quite a list--a number of things, and then the parents came in a body to ask for her dismissal, and when you get to that point, you can't--you've got to really--you have to do something--you have to act. So I had kept the central office informed, and we had a--showdown, and I really felt that I was the one who was going to lose my job. I don't know why it was put on that plane other than to salve her feelings. I had to just tell it like it was, and I really felt "one alone," and yet there were about five other people in that room besides me. It was decided that she would go back to the school from whence she came, which she did. The principal there told me that she was never successful. The principal had changed, I believe, and he was--he had the same thing that I had had, which made me feel a little better, because I didn't, you know--I had a lot of background information on her, as far as things that she had--gross neglect, really, in the classroom--just wasn't teaching, and of course we had thirty-some children, you see, to think about. But I didn't lose my job--though I really thought I was--and she was transferred, so you see, that was not--she was not fired. There was one when I was Director of Elementary Education--we had one case that I was called in on. I had to do some observations, and I worked with the principal on that one, and she was let go. This was not a black teacher, she happened to be a white teacher, and she just couldn't teach. She was a very--she had tunnel vision, and all she could see was what she was doing. And she would just go on and on with these little children in reading circles, and they didn't anymore know what she was talking about than the chair. And it was the most--oh, you just wanted to say, "Please do it!", you know. So they were probably the worst examples. Now, I've had some, you know, who had to transfer for various reasons but were not really bad teachers, just needed other situations. You know, I do think personalities do enter in where people are placed. We tried, when we placed children--and I say placed--grouped--we tried to sort of match the personalities. And when a parent would come to me and say--this didn't happen too often, but it did happen--"Please take my child out of Mrs. So-and-so's room," I always did it. Now, it hurt some teachers' feelings, but I did it for this reason. I told them, "If that feeling is there about you, regardless of now hard you work with this child, you're never going to make, and you will be the one to suffer." And I had, when I was teaching, he had to move a couple of children out of my room, which was--I guess looking back it was a godsend, because they were little devils. But your personalities, it does--and your way of handling children and teaching--I don't believe in corporal punishment, by the way---I do not. I had one teacher--you talk about letting them go--when I was the director--she had a--the principal came to me and had discovered that this teacher had three rulers tied together. And this was with little children, now, this was in a kindergarten situation---using it. So, of course, this principal had had parent complaints and so forth, and called the teacher in and this, that, and the other. So, he asked me if I would help him, you know, with this situation. It---I'll say we were fortunate--the children were fortunate in that she was old enough to retire, so she elected to retire. But you see what teachers can do to children? And bore them to tears. You know these bright little ones that you teach--and you just hear this monotonous voice going all day long--talk, talk, talk, talk--you know--just talk them to death.
Q: Tell me what you think could be improved in the teacher education process to better prepare people to go into the classroom.
A: Well, you know, I worked a good bit with student teachers, and at that time, and even later when I was in the central office, I did have the opportunity to work with the universities and colleges, and they--I really think that now the colleges are making a genuine effort to find the magic key, I suppose it is, in opening up what makes a good teacher and how do you get this to happen. I don't believe that the colleges have enough--and this is not easy and I don't know how to say this. I don't believe they utilize enough good teachers--and I'm talking about teachers who get along with parents, who get along with their peers, who teach, who instruct. They don't just stand up and--you see, a lot of teachers think because you say, "I'm a teacher", I'm teaching, and you know that's not it. If you can't transport that knowledge across, and then it's given back to you, then you are not teaching, you know that. I think maybe if you had a core (corps?) of really good teachers from a system who could in some way have workshops or--what do you call them now--seminars--in actual--and just sit down with these young people and work with children with them more. I think there needs to be--there's a lot of practicality in teaching. Oh, I think theory is wonderful. I think you need the theory, I really do. I think you've got to know it. And you've got to know the background knowledge for your subject area. But I think there's a practical part of teaching that has--I won't say been ignored--but has not been practiced as much as it probably should be. For instance, if you've got all your children, and you've got everybody's attention, and everybody's just absorbed in this problem that you have, and all of a sudden this child throws up all over the floor, you've lost them. Or somebody comes over the loudspeaker and you're right in the middle of something and that moment is gone. Well now, how do you handle that, you see. You're a young teacher and you're just out of college and you're so proud of yourself for what you've done, and all of a sudden this something happens. Now, how do you get them back, and how do you cope with it? And what do you do? Now they are the kinds of little practical things that I'm talking about. You have a fire drill right in the middle of something. A child runs away. You've got a parent who's coming down to get this child because his wife's taken the child away from him and he appears at your door. It's that kind of thing--I don't know how you teach that. I don't know how you get that across. But I think that they are the little things, and--they're not so little--because the end result is that you've destroyed the instructional program right there, at that time--that moment. And they're the kinds of little things--you know this thing of you've got to have discipline they tell you. You have to have discipline before you can teach. All right, now, what does that mean to a young teacher? See? And I know, when they told me that--they told me--you'll never believe this--when I was in college, "You'll never be a good teacher because your voice is too soft." Now, it was--once, and I thought, "I'll just never be any good at all." I was--you know, I thought that. And the first year I taught school I had 48 children in first and second grade. And they just--you know how they give the new teachers--I hope they don't do this any more--but there was a time when they gave the new teachers the hardest job. Well then I had to learn the hard way and there was a good teacher across the hall, see, and I ran across the hall. That's what I'm talking about, this utilization of teachers. There's--some mastermind should work out a plan whereby you can do a little bit more of that--have a little bit more give and take. Be honest with them. Tell it like it is. It's no bed of roses.
Q: Okay. How did you handle the civil rights issue and the busing?
A: Well, as a principal, we finally had one bus, seems to me. Some of the children lived farther than a mile, and that was really the only bus that we had at that time, and they were all white with the exception of one or two. Now, when I left Olive Branch, that was the year that the schools were integrated. It was a chaotic situation at best, and I did not want to leave. I was followed by a young principal who had a very dreadful year because the parents were upset. Children were upset. No, as director--see, I believe that schools ought to be integrated, I really do, and I think they should be integrated in a natural kind of way, if possible. I really think that--I like neighborhood schools. For instance, take the Churchland area. The Churchland area is integrated--you know this--and therefore it ought to be a natural integration of that community. I don't think you need to pull from the inner city any more--I really don't. Out here where we are now--Cavalier Manor comes in. I think that has been probably one of the smoothest of the whole city, it seems to me. Now you're in it, so you know better than I, but I know as I--when I was in the central office, that it worked well. Because these parents all were--they all had the same kind of aspirations for their children. They were all middle-class, and even though children were bused back and forth, I think that it's worked very well. And I think this is life. I think you have to accept this business of "we're going to get along together" because we are. And the children really do much better, I'm sorry to say, than some adults. But I do--I think this is really--could be used as an example in a way because it has worked well. And it's not too far--the busing is not too far away that you couldn't get there to get your child if you had to.
Q: The parents don't feel so far away.
A: That's right.
Q: What procedure do you think ought to be used to select a principal for a school?
A: To select a principal for a school. Well, I guess mine was something like an act of God, I suppose.
Q: Or maybe somebody who hasn't been a principal before. What would you look for?
A: Well, I would like to see them have--I think that the idea of taking the assistant principals and really making that a training ground--I think that's really what they should be trained for. I don't think you ought to have assistant principals who are going to stay there forever, as a lifetime job. That's not it. I think you're wasting that position. And when I say they need training--they need it from that principal. I'm not saying necessarily that that assistant principal would move up and become the principal of that school if the principal moved, but I think that he ought to have a broad enough bit of training that he could ses the system whole. See, we do get tunnel vision. I had it when I was at Olive Branch, and I didn't know that other things existed in this city until I got out of it, and that was rather late. I wish that we had more--I think that those who are in training to be principals, or want to be, should be provided the opportunities to get out and see other schools. I think they ought to be set up that way. I know when I was a principal, the only time I ever went in another school was if we had a principals' meeting. And my goodness, you just meet, and you don't see--you don't know. But they--I think the person who is selected ought to be certainly screened by a task force, a group, or whatever you want to call it--a committee--and they are, I'm sure. But I think much thought should be given to the makeup of the school and the makeup to the person coming in, and the situation that he is going to face--he or she. I'd like to see some women in there.
Q: Did you ever have an assistant principal?
A: Never had a full-time.
Q: You had some short-term ones. Remember Mr. Slate--in that program?
A: Yes, he came in the Manpower Program. I had him for three weeks.
Q: Oh, that wasn't very long, was it?
A: That wasn't long, and it was the end of school--the last three weeks. See now, that was a good program, but I didn't have him long enough. See, he needed to be with me six months, or half a year--something like that to really have gotten his feet on the ground, and the others went to different schools like that too. I just didn't have him long enough. I think he got his feet wet--I don't mean that--but I think he needed a little more time.
Q: What was your biggest concern as a principal?
A: That the children wouldn't learn.
Q: I knew that.
A: That we wouldn't do for them what we should do.
Q: Are you familiar with the career ladder concept that they've been using like in Charlotte-Mecklenburg?
Q: Okay. It's an area where they are letting teachers stay in the classroom but be on a higher level, sort of a master teacher.
A: Oh, uh huh, like merit pay?
Q: Well, it's sort in that same vein--not exactly the same thing. What do you think about merit pay for teachers?
A: Well, I'm in favor of it, but I have reservations like many others do about the administration of it. By that I mean who's going to do the observing and who's going to insure that this observer is fair, because I think that's of supreme importance, but I do think they should be rewarded. But I don't know how the mechanics need to be worked out. But I'll tell you--if you have the right kind of observer and so forth--I don't mean just one to do it--I think it would have to be a committee or something. I think it would have to be--somebody overseeing that committee would have to be very sure that they were fair--certainly attempted to be--and not swayed by outside pressure or racial feelings or anything else of that nature.
Q: How do you think that would impact on teachers as a whole?
A: I don't think that right--well, at this point I don't think that teachers want it. I don't think so. Mine didn't--the ones that I talked with before I left the system. It can develop into--well, let me put it this way--the person who is given this merit pay should have some extra responsibilities, for instance, in working with other teachers as a master teacher. So that other teachers would realize that they were rewarded because they earned it and deserved it and were that kind of person. I think you'd have to be very careful about that, because some people's heads swell--overnight.
Q: What do you think about the Standards of Quality that the state has. . .
A: Well, I like it. I like that. I liked having a program from the state saying that "this shall be so" and so forth. I think that they should back it up with the money. That was one thing that was very frustrating to me as an administrator because the pupil-teacher ratio, for instance, in the lower grades, but it was not always backed up with the money to fund it, which I think is a must. I think they go hand in hand. I think they have very good standards of quality. I liked them and I think that's what we should live up to. I think we should have had it anyway, you know, without being mandated, but I'm glad to see that they've done that.
Q: What do you think are the characteristics of an effective school?
A: A school?
Q: An effective school--what are the characteristics?
A: Well, I think it should be a happy place, and by that I don't mean that I think you ought to walk in and see people hanging from the ceiling, and throwing around things, and jumping up and down and screaming and laughing. I don't mean that. I mean when you walk into a building you usually anyway can feel the--I've always said it reflects the principal's personality, and I think it does. You must feel that it's a safe place for children and that it is--and by happy I mean the right kind of learning environment--a pleasant place, with pleasant people. I think that it should have a faculty who works together and not pulls apart, and I think the principal certainly is a part of this staff effort and must set the tone. I think it should certainly by all means be professional in every sense of the word, and I think it should offer every instructional possibility that there is for children to learn.
Q: Very complete.
A: I don't know whether it is or not.
Q: What do you think about the testing--what we do with the SRA and SAT's for the older children?
A: Well, the SRA's, as I mentioned some time back, we were very proud of ours. We studied ours. I think that if--just to give a child a test and do nothing with it is just a waste of everybody's time. I think children can be over-tested. The thing that disturbs me is that they'll be tested to death. Another thing that disturbs me is that there could be a tendency on the part of--I would hope not many--teachers to teach the test, which I think is certainly most unfair to children--and to teachers. I think that the tests should be--well, let's take SRA--should be studied. I think you should study it as a group. I think--I'm not saying individual test scores by any sense--but I think that they should be explained to teachers. I think you ought to have competent testing people who don't bore you to tears with statistics, but tell you actually what this test score does mean or could mean. Learn what testing does mean, don't over test children, and don't put too much credence in one test. That's the way I feel about it, and I think people--teachers need help in interpretation. I certainly did.
Q: What was the hardest decision you ever had to make as a principal?
A: The hardest decision. To get rid of my Puerto Rican custodian. No, that was really not, but that was one of my headaches. He did give me a hard time because I was a woman. He didn't want to work for women. He was an excellent custodian, but he didn't want to work for me, but he finally did, and then he retired so that took care of that. Another hard decision I made--it's usually with people--working with something to do with people--was a cafeteria manager, who had a serious operation and I had to get somebody to run the cafeteria--which I did--and she bitterly resented it. I didn't handle it well, see. I really didn't. As I've looked back many times, this has been one of my--I've really worried about this one--I still do. And I think, "Oh, if I had just done this somewhat differently." I went to tell her that I had to get--well you know school goes on, and I had to get somebody to run it. Well, in the meantime, she did get out to the beauty parlor, and the lady I had hired was in the beauty parlor and told her. She was on her way to see me from there, and I was going to tell her, see, but I was trying to wait till she got herself better. So that was really--that was a shocker, but it taught me something. I learned something the hard way from that because I don't like to meet that lady today. But, you see, I did learn that you don't treat people--you have to anticipate things, and you have to plan for them, and you have to organize them. Of course I was trying to look after the children so they'd have a decent meal, but I just didn't handle it well--bad decision. Well, I don't mean the decision was bad, but the way I went about it wasn't good.
Q: How did you spend a typical day as a principal? Was there a typical day?
A: Well, every day was different. I did have a spiral notebook that I planned my day. I did do that. I also did bring some work home. I was never able to finish work from 8:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon. I just could not do it. Something had to go, and it was the paperwork, with me. Because I would get up, and I would go, and we would open the school, and I usually had a parent or two, maybe, that I had to see first, or before that, before the bell rang, I had teachers. So I tried to handle those problems, get a solution, and then I--every day I did an observation. Now I say every day--I tried to do one every day. When you're called out of the building for meetings or something, you can't do that very well. And the amount of paperwork that they have to contend with now, because I know when I left my office I had to bring it home because I wanted to get out into the schools. I think that it's important that you have visibility, people see you, and that's what I tried to do every day. I had a lot of sessions with parents, not just about children, but on PTA projects and this kind of thing. I very much felt that the PTA was certainly an integral part of the school and that it was up to the principal to be there. You don't steer it, exactly, but your very presence lends them the feeling of stability for your school, and you, and the teachers. And you learn a lot. They also learn a lot from you, because that's what you're hired for. So I usually tried, I'd say about three days out of every week we had some type of group meeting. And we had study groups for parents during the day. I ate with the children and teachers. I felt that was what you should do. I have had to substitute, on occasion. If I had a teacher who was late or had had an emergency I had to open up for her--those kinds of things. They were kind of different days. I was usually the last to leave my building other than the custodian. I told my secretary where I was all the time, so she knew where I was. I told the secretary, "Do not interrupt the classes when they're teaching." You'll have to--unless it's an emergency. I followed the school day as much as I possibly could. By that I mean by the routine, and always saying, "I will get into this classroom today." Now if you had a problem in a classroom then I would try to go maybe twice a week, see. You can't go every day and just floor them--unless it was dreadful.
Q: I have one last question. What should I have asked you that I didn't ask? What do you think it's important for me to know that I didn't ask you?
A: As a principal?
Q: As a principal.
A: I think you've covered the subject extremely well--in depth. You've really--I haven't given you very much, but I really had to search down in the bottom of my poor brain to think back to those days, and yet in a way it seems like yesterday in some respects when I think about it. I want to say this about the teachers. We had the best group of teachers in town, and they were proud to be a part of us. We all were, and that pride, see, that's developed in the staff, everybody, even the Puerto Rican janitor, and the children--that's when your best foot comes forward.
Q: Well, I really appreciate your giving me this time--I really do.
A: I just hope it has helped.
Q: I have enjoyed it.
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