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Q: How many years were you in education as a teacher and a principal?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: As a teacher, 7 years. As a teacher I was 3 years in high school and 4 years in the elementary school. As a principal, 25 years and then I was administrative assistant to the superintendent for three years, my last three years, and during that time I was in charge of K through 12, the instructional program as well as the curriculum. That is the methods of the instruction, the instructional skills and the curriculum, basically.
Q: Why did you decide to become a principal?
A: Well, at the time, that it became available to me I really didn't decide to become the principal. I happened to be in a school where the principal, the only principal who had ever been there, died and at that particular time I was the most qualified one because I had the high school background and they were looking for people who had a wide range of experience and mine encompasses both the secondary and primary schools and the others in the school did not happen to be as qualified although they had more seniority than I did, but they had been at the school for a long time and in the same grade level. They did not have the wide variety that I had, though a short time.
Q: Describe the school where you worked.
A: The school where I worked was a rural school. Its clientele came from a little above the average of just farm people because it drew from the students of professors working in a private school nearby and all of their children came to this school. It was a good mixture of low income to very median, medium income. This, of course was before the start of the integration process, you see, so we were the cream of the. . .drew from the cream of the county, so to speak and at that particular time anybody could attend this school who could get transportation there and so we drew on a very cross-cultural background, more so than any of the other schools. There were three other schools in the county.
Q: What was your school's philosophy?
A: The school philosophy. . .(laughs) Well, certainly that each person was an individual and each person could learn and each person was there to develop himself to the best that he could be and if anything, I guess our school's philosophy encompassed the whole child. It was not. . .It was not just that he was going to have the three R's, but it was the whole child. For a small rural school such as this one was, we had our balance, a good balance of the arts, a good balance of Physical Education and certainly we brought in the outside world in many ways, even before television. So I feel that it was a school that was interested in each person as an individual and that had been carried on there and particularly many of the teachers in this school were home grown and had come back to teach in this school by desire and that it seemed to be quite an arrival if you could teach in this school.
Q: So the teachers shared the philosophy of the school?
A: Yes, so they did.
Q: That was my next question. How was the philosophy developed? Were the teachers involved?
A: Yes the teachers and the community. It was very much dependent on the community itself. For instance, they had a great deal of volunteering even before volunteering was even called volunteering or popular. But I recall the church, the local church choir director used to come on her own, give or do the music in the school.
Q: That's interesting.
A: And, you know, we had a music program there even without a music teacher, per se, hired or provided by the county. This person came into the school and did these things for us. She played the piano and then there were others in the community who used the school for giving piano lessons. This again, was something that was not practiced.
Q: The community school. . .
A: Yes, it was a community concept.
Q: How did you create a climate for learning?
A: How did I create a climate for learning?
Q: As a principal?
A: Well, my husband and my family will tell you that they did not know what I did all day long because I stayed at school after hours so late.
Q: That sounds familiar!
A: What I really did. . .I stayed in the classrooms a lot. I personally liked to tackle those youngsters who seemed not to have love of learning and let them be my very special challenges and so therefore, I had free and easy access into all the classrooms because that teacher wanted help with that little guy who didn't want to do his work, or didn't want to learn and so I had a group in every classroom that really were given to me more or less as "Let's see what you can do with him because we can't or I can't", and it became very important to me to try to work with these children and so all day long I had teaching duties all day, throughout the day.
Q: Were there, or did they have special education teachers or resource teachers?
A: Not at that particular time they didn't. I was the resource teacher. I became the resource teacher. As I said, volunteering before it was known as it is now was something that had been practiced in this school for as long as I had ever been there. I had helpers who came in at the beginning of the school year, they would come into the school and say, "We have this many people who will be coming into the school. You may choose who you would like to have work with you and what you would like for them to do." No one said these volunteers couldn't help with reading or they couldn't help with math or any of the other things they did and so I guess you might say I was the resource teacher during the school hours and then I did my principaling after school hours.
Q: What leadership techniques did you use?
A: Well, if I had to list them, I'm not really, really sure, but I tried to be the kind of leader who started by listening and if there seemed to be needs by the teacher who was constantly looking for excuses not to do something, I would really try to bend over backwards to help her or give her lots of materials, give her lots of resource people and things of this nature that overly compensated for anything that she might find was hard to do. In the meantime I also liked to use that person in anything that I felt she could or she could show the others.
Q: A mentoring program!
A: That's right. And I found that because I really seriously took every little complaint as something sincere, my staff finally understood that if there was a problem, it was our problem not her problem, or my problem, but our problem and then we worked from that view. Also, I suppose it will be a question later on, but perhaps leading into what you're going to say; what was my philosophy of leadership? That right there was it. Whatever bothered a teacher bothered me and it became a we not me, or he or me and she, but we and so.
Q: I think you've talked about this but, what role did you play in school-community relations?
A: Well, even. . .
Q: You've mentioned the volunteer program. Can you think of any other community oriented program that you initiated in your school?
A: . . .I'm thinking, of course, this school was pretty much at that particular time when I was there also very conscious of the church. Its church community also. So the people who were in that church, also worked in the school. Almost all of them. It was kind of a give and take relationship for most of them. Everything in the community such as activities to highlight the bicentennial, or historical activities, I was active in it myself and I drew the school in along with me but I was not alone. The people. . .it was an interchanging type of thing and so I had the opportunity to have taught drama in the high school. We encompassed everyone in it so I could pull from the high school people into this school and also from the community and by so doing I could also use the private schools so we kind of had a nice relationship in the community in that respect. Public school/community relations did you say? There was always a little newspaper that went home and every room was reported. And we worked it out at the beginning of the school with teachers so that one room would be editing, the editor of the paper at least once during the year so that room might be played up at that particular time and so that every child had his name in the paper for some reason or the other even if it were for something about his painting that was on the wall or there was a group that was advancing in reading. . .and those names on it, but every child got his name in that newspaper at least once during the year and parents became very dependent upon that little school newspaper and that was a neat thing and also we had a local paper that would come in and do little human interest stories about anything that we could think of during the school year too.
Q: What about a P.T.A. (Parent Teacher Association)?
A: A very active P.T.A., very active P.T.A. and a great pride with providing the school with the most modern equipment both playground and our school every year had a big fund, a big literary fund. The teachers and I would sit down at the end of school year and when these monies would come and we had these things in the school in supplementary materials that we could use. We had all kinds of maps and globes and things that in addition to what the county had but we were fortunate in that respect that this P.T.A. believed that the teachers, the staff there wanted something beyond and so they gave us that money and it was quite a nice big sum of money each year that we could deal with. We didn't have to give an accounting to the school board for that.
Q: What do you think teachers expect principals to be? An administrator or an instructional leader or both?
A: By all means, they have to be both. You know, if I'm going to be a teacher and I don't have anyone else to look to give me some advice or to give me at least some guidance of where to go to fulfill my needs then I've lost out if the principal isn't both the administrator to take care of all those little mundane kinds of things out there, somebody has to lead.
Q: So the teachers can model.
A: Yes, definitely. So I don't think there is any question about being both, that principal has to.
Q: How did you evaluate teachers?
A: Uh. . .evaluating teachers. Are you referring to an evaluation instrument or an informal evaluation?
Q: Well, I'd like for you to discuss both the formal and informal methods of evaluation.
A: Well, at the beginning of the school year we used to sit down and talk about "Do we want to be where we were this time last year?" Is there ever a time we've arrived to be the best we can be and every year is going to be different because you are going to have different students and a different set of circumstances. You're going to be different because you've grown a year. But which way have you grown? Have you grown set in your ways and you think I've done as well as Miss Smith next door. She doesn't do half as much as I do, you know, or this sort of thing so we would as a staff decide we would talk about this from that standpoint if we have arrived at the best that we can be then we need to have this, whoever this is, to tell us how we can get there. If not, then we need to set some goals for ourselves and so every teacher, we would sit down, and we would talk about this, what the school needed to do as a whole and then what that one could do, what that particular teacher or that grade level could do and generally I would ask that the teacher choose one or two major things that she could work toward and then I would choose one and real often it would be the same thing that she had chosen, but we would then meet periodically to see what was taking place to see how that was going and we would talk about it. Then we would get back as a staff and talk about were we going in the direction of achieving the school's goals and what was helping us in our particular classroom that was helping us to achieve that goal. How we were personally working toward that. Uh, hum. . .this seemed to work for us and a lot of it evolved from our county instrument, that this staff did develop and others seemed to like. . .seemed to want to model after this particular one.
Q: It sounds like you stayed in the classrooms. You were right on top of things.
A: Yes and I don't think I ever felt the anxiety from a teacher like, "What is she doing in here snooping again?" I never went in a classroom to observe a teacher unless she had invited me to come in and visit for a particular thing she wanted me to see. I went into the classroom to work with my group of children and she could observe me and often times I would ask her, "Would you observe me today?", and it may be that the very thing that I wanted her to see was something that I might have observed that she was or was not doing right.
A: And I would tell her "Would you please watch for so and so to see if he is attending me, to see if I'm sitting too long in the group, am I keeping his eye contact." Give me some points when I get through this and I would try to model it and I would get some really good feedback through this kind of thing and of course the thing that was happening I felt was that she or he was keeping up on some of the things that I might have said now you need to get away from your desk and uh, take these children with you in another way or you need to pace yourself. Anyway, when I would be asking for that I would ask them to give me their critique.
Q: Oh! okay. What techniques did you use to make teachers feel important? Did you develop, or what I'm interested in is staff development. Did you initiate any type of inservice program? Were they regular or a monthly type thing or. . .
A: Yes. . .
Q: . . .or anything that make the teachers feel important.
A: . . .Well, at the beginning of the school year, we made a big thing of getting our rooms ready. We had a visitation program in each teacher's room. . .and the teacher, the hostess teacher would point out something that she did in that room that she didn't do last year. (laugh) And it was amazing because there was never ever anybody who said, "I've get to get the room ready," and in just a split say "I'm looking for things that are going to be attractive to my children when they walk in." And so we'd start the year off that way so that..uh...we would spend a few minutes in each teacher's room at this particular time, and she would tell us something about it. So we'd start that way. Then as I said, the newspaper, that teacher would be. . .she knew which month her month was going to be or her week, uh, for the newspaper. Also she would, uh, be responsible for planning an activity by her room for the rest of the school, uh, these are just some of the things that I felt did indeed help that way particularly, and this was kind of a latent discovery. Instead of my sitting down and taking lists from teachers as to what they wanted I asked them for their favorite kinds of things that they wanted to do. Like for instance did they want to be responsible for getting all of the supplies for the school for the arts, or for the science, or for the P.E. or for this sort of thing and I assigned them the chairmanship of that and then they could pull whoever they wanted to work with them and I gave them the amount of money that had been allotted the school and I said ORDER! But, uh, it was up to them to get a list from each teacher. They had to get a list from each teacher and then they did it. Of course I did the final. But in that way, those teachers became very, uh, assertive in that we ordered so and so for science and we should not be running out of these science materials by now. Mrs. So and So, this is what you gave me. I have your order right here. The principal is. . .
Q: So they police themselves.
A: That's right. And so, and it was really the writing paper for instance, children's writing paper. They would come to me and say, "Mrs. Snead did you know Mrs. So and So is using more than her share?" I'd say no, I have not. I haven't checked on Mrs. So and So, have you mentioned it to her? And so, at a meeting they'd say, I just want to tell you that we only have such and such left and you need to be aware that if you're using it for other than what it was designed for, you need to be very alert and then it didn't come from me. Then it came from them and so this was a very effective kind of thing.
Q: It sounds wonderful.
A: So this sort of evolved from a necessity.
Q: What is your philosophy of education?
A: What is my philosophy of education? It's a never ending thing. It should never be. And, uh, guess you might say that since I've retired I'm beginning to learn all over again, with a new slant of things but I haven't finished. I'm not finished by a long shot! And I feel, uh, that philosophy of education is just something that is a lifelong learning. You never stop. Education is synonymous with learning and once you stop, you're either physically. . .your brain is no longer functioning or well, that's just what it is. Your brain just dies. I want to die if it happens.
Q: What is your philosophy of teaching?
A: Teaching should be the most fun of anything there is. And, let's face it, everybody is a teacher whether or not they want to influence. It's like influence. You influence somebody whether you intend to or not. You might say it's my business but that's not true. Everybody is a teacher. Some are trained to be that way and some, very few, are born that way. But there are some born teachers and I have met them and feel that I was fortunate to have someone in my family who really was a teacher and aspired for me to be and I didn't know it. . .you know. . .I really didn't know it. But I taught from the time I was able to line up my doll babies and a cat (laughs) and the cat was my bad boy. So I taught all day long. Of course I destroyed the wallpaper and lots of other things, but that's my real philosophy, I think, is that teaching is the most wonderful thing there is and we should take it very seriously.
Q: We have discussed this before, but what is your personal leadership philosophy?
A: (laughs) Oh, what is my personal leadership philosophy? That I shouldn't ask anybody to do anything that I wouldn't do myself and that I should not be shy about saying, "I don't know how", and since I don't know how but this has been given to me to do, will you help me do it and not to be ashamed that there is something that you don't know. Uh, leading doesn't mean that you know everything. You know, it means that you get in there with somebody else or with others and let them know that you're willing to do it and you need someone to come along with you.
Q: What does it take to be an effective principal?
A: Well, I'm not sure. (laughs) I'm not sure (laughs) if I was an effective principal and I think that I was and I think that some of the things that I did do was rather effective. But, I think also that uh, uh, to be an effective principal you've got to see the response of your staff members and the other people with whom you work. You've got to see that their attitude is one of enjoyment and one of a seriousness. I'm not. . .If you see too many long faces and too many gripes then there's something that you need to look again to see that, what is. . .you know. . .I am the one that sets the stage and I prepared this stage and if my cast are not playing their roles very well, then I need to see if my directorship is effective. And I feel like it's a team effort and that's how we have to go with it if we are going to be effective.
Q: What pressures did you face as a principal?
A: (laughs) Pressures. . .that's a good. . .the pressure of principalship I might say and that depends on whether you want to know was it pressures from parents? The parenting pressures? Pressures from parents who wanted grades changed? Who wanted the medicine given, who, uh, wanted to complain or who wanted to overly supply the school with things that they thought was important or it just all depends on whether or not it is that. . .angle. . .or was it student, uh students? The pressures of getting them to a level that you felt that they were capable of doing and they were falling back--that kind of pressure. Teaching, learning pressure, or pressure from teachers? Uh. . .Teachers are people, (laughs) and we all have needs and the pressures that teachers have from the working conditions to their economic needs and things that you couldn't do anything about but things that maybe you could help to do something about. But un..oh...even the cafeteria brought pressure, the greatest pressure on the principal. And uh. . .just looking at the children's trays or their plates would come back. . .tell you, you're doing something wrong or right or something of that nature. Even the janitorial services brings pressure. Uh, I can't think of anything that a principal doesn't have that doesn't have the potential for pressure and particularly the school board, is under fire from the school board. Of course the superintendent, and all the other people he works with. So, uh, you handle them as you have to handle them when you get to them. Uh,...
Q: How, that's my next question. I know that you had a supportive family. Did you do any kind of extra activities to relieve the pressures of the job? Any type or crafts or anything to get your mind off things. . .
A: Oh yes!
Q: . . .outside interests?
A: Yes. And uh, we uh, had relatives that lived in another part of the state and of course that was a relief to leave here and go there for weekend activities as well as a totally different kind of thing. . .vacation experiences of this nature. We always sought things away from the community as well as something that we could not do readily. We would take trips to Washington or we would go, mostly historical ventures though. Of course, my family itself, they were always free to go. Many times, I'd have to stay because I had an extra meeting or what have you. So there were times when their father and they would take off to the grandmother's down by the seashore.
Q: If you had it to do again, what would you do to better prepare yourself for the principalship?
A: (laughs) I guess perhaps it might be better not to know what you're getting into. (laughs) In a sense, I guess perhaps I would have gone ahead to graduate school before I became a principal and try to get together some skills and a better philosophy for my own grasp of things. Uh, whereas I went to school during my beginning principalship and so therefore it was a very hard time in dealing with my growing family, as well going to school full time, as well as being a principal full time and that was the way I think I would do it differently. I think I would take some time and not go so fast.
Q: Well today the state requires that a principal have a master's degree.
Q: But I understand back then, principals not having a master's was a very common practice.
A: But you did have a degree, at that particular time and as I said I happened to be the one who had the best range of experience.
Q: How did you handle teacher grievances?
A: Oh boy. . .(laughs) Well, in this respect as I said, I think is pertinent, you are a listener, and if I could handle it, very well. . .If a teacher could come and talk to me. I guess the thing that would bother me the most was when they would talk to each other and it would all, almost always get out of hand before it got to you because it was kind of like an afterthought, "Well maybe we should tell the principal about this." Whereas, I think that, that's what you need to do the most. Let your principal know, keep the principal informed. That to me is most important. And if you don't have open-minded principal, then I would question whether or not he was effective in other ways. But, there are problems arising in anything you do and certainly if a teacher has a grievance, I think the principal should listen, and if indeed that teacher has a legitimate grievance I really believe that teacher needs to have someone who believes that, but give the principal a chance to remedy this. So often, as I said, a teacher will go ahead and complain to another and they'll go off on a tangent of what all these things are wrong without giving this principal any inkling to know what's bothering them. So give the principal an opportunity to remedy the situation and then if the principal can't, maybe he knows others who can help. But, uh, we're in this world to work together. And uh, who's going to, who is going to suffer the most? Not the principal, not the teacher, but that child.
Q: Did you ever fire a teacher?
A: Well, yes.
Q: What happened?
A: (laughs) I'm not sure if I did the firing. Of course in our situation, the superintendent did the firing, but uh, there was a situation where nothing was going on in the room. It was a particular era there where we were hard put for teachers, in the rural climate, and so we were at the last minute signing up teachers. My job was not hiring, at that particular time. The superintendent did. And, of course, there were times, when like two days before school would be opening we would still have a vacancy and either someone in the community would have to fill that vacancy or you'd have to get a teacher in there off the streets so to speak. This was right after the war, this did happen. And uh. . .During this time, I was assigned a young lady who, uh, just seemed to me not to be very alert, and uh, when we sat down to go over the curriculum, to go over that program for the room, it was a fourth grade, uh, she was, uh, certainly on the surface, very cooperative, but as time wore on there was absolutely nothing going on in that room. Nothing from the reading program was being followed. None of the work was being followed. Then I began to get parents saying "I don't understand. When they got in the fourth grade, I thought they were supposed to be doing this, that and the other and my child is not doing any of that." Then another parent would say, well, when my child last year, was in there, he had to do so and so and nothing like that was being done and so when I would sit down with this lady, she would assure me that she was doing that and the children were just lying. And uh, this went on, well, by mid-October, after six weeks had gone by, it was apparent that she was in over her head and that she did not know how to get out. Then I began to bring all this to the superintendent's attention, then they began to inquire as to her recommendations, and she had none and, uh, there were some instances when I would ask her, because I had to make out report cards, and I'd sit down with her to help her because she had not the slightest inkling to know how to even write a sentence that said whatever the child was doing and she made very light of all of this. It was like she knew this was a fabrication of my imagination and so the superintendent called on me to have her come over and talk with him and she was in the community without any transportation so I had to take her. So on the way over, its about a fifteen minute drive, on the way over she sang these crazy, silly songs and I thought, "What do we have here?" and I began to suspect then that she had to be on some drugs or something and she had no realization as to what we had done and so I considered that as the times that we were living through and that particular era, that it happened, so uh we were beginning to realize that we had to be fair to people. She had a contract with us, and so I had to sit down and lay out some ground rules as to what had to be done and out of, out of a classroom of twenty-six children, twenty-four parents had petitions to the school, that she had to go and with very legitimate reasoning to back them up and so I had to be the one, of course, to say, to recommend to the superintendent that we would have to terminate her, in which she then hired another teacher, put the other teacher in the classroom, let this person stay in the building and I had to work with her in the building with other activities until. . .I believe it was Thanksgiving. She was paid through January first, then she was terminated.
Q: How do you feel about teacher's associations such as the VEA, NEA, and local ones?
A: Well, if it is truly intended for the teacher organizations to improve or upgrade the teaching profession, then it has its place. But if, it becomes the whipping board as to who you can intimidate and because we have this great association and it becomes an intimidating force, then I think its defeating its own purpose and its no longer a professional organization, it has become a union as far as I can see. If it's the strong-arm approach, it seems to me, its defeated its professionalism.
Q: How can we improve education?
A: Wuh! How can we improve education? How can improve education? Huh, do you mean for students, for teachers, for. . .
Q: Let's start with students. Studies like "A Nation at Risk" came out with certain guidelines we can follow to improve our schools. Do you have any personal recommendations?
A: Like the Carnegie Report. Well, the thing that I said earlier, somewhere in our conversation, that you never arrive. We live in a changing world, and we ourselves are changing, and so you never arrive and so all of these reports, even when they give you a view that seems to be negative, it's really good because it makes you examine thyself, and we gain from every one of these studies. Either, it's like I used to send teachers across the county to visit other schools and I would say "Now teachers, two things are going to happen. You're going to come back and say I'm doing things better than they are or they're doing things better than I am." So you can't do anything but gain from that. You either know that what you're doing is good and you need to do more of it or you know where your weaknesses are and you need to begin to analyze those and know where to go from there. So I really feel like we never have arrived in a perfect situation. It's going to be a till death do us part situation.
Q: How can we improve teacher education?
A: Well, I like the idea of the teacher internship and I like the idea of mentoring. I think that is really a very necessary part. It's almost like when our children there used to be, that the father did indeed take out Henry and Samuel and John to show them how to do certain things because that was a man's world and mother did the same thing with Mary and Susie and Sally, showing them how to make biscuits and things of that nature. Uh, now we've gotten all confused because we think Henry and Sam should learn to make biscuits, too. And Susie and Sally should go out there and learn to build a barn or whatever. But that's not the point, the point that I'm making here is that you learn by doing but you ought not to be have to totally responsible for uh, really saddling the big horse until you have really learned all the skills to ride that horse and I think you need to have an unthreatening situation where you have a mentor or where you have the internship which is a part of the expected, to make these usual mistakes, to give you that opportunity for internship. It's likened to the medical profession and I think its certainly this. . .that we're dealing with human minds.
Q: Well, businesses practice intern relationships but schools don't initiate that kind of program, formal programs. At least in our school system they don't.
A: Well, I don't know if there are that many that do but I do feel this is an area of need.
Q: I agree. . .How did you handle the civil rights issue, busing?
A: (laughs) Oh, this is quite a time to live through. You handled it day by day and situation by situation and you handled it from the standpoint of putting yourself in the other fellow's shoes. And really trying to go the extra mile or two.
Q: What procedures should be used before a person is selected to become a principal?
A: Well, first of all I think one of the things perhaps is that we need to do what I mentioned, the internship, not only for teachers but I think it is very necessary for this person who is going to be an administrator to also have the very, very same preparation because you just don't jump into principalship and be expected to know, uh the integrity and knowledge of what to do and how to do it, when to do it, just by being thrown into it. I was. That was one of the things I said I think I could have done better to acquire some of these preparation skills.
Q: How did to relate to assistant principals?
A: Well, in our school, I did not have one. Uh, the closest thing we had to any sort of assistance was a supervisor for the county and he or she was spread rather thin so that all you could get from them more or less any kinds of research or any kind of resource materials. They were just too thinly spread and they couldn't do anything except to deal with us on this sort of thing. You were the captain of the ship, so to speak, and you had to make things go.
Q: As a principal, what was your greatest concern?
A: Well, as a principal, I guess my biggest concern was always centered on children and, uh, whether indeed the program was keeping pace with their needs and whether we were losing some, in which we always do, and what if any could be done to help these little struggling people that lost from time to time. I guess that was the biggest concern of mine was the children.
Q: What was you greatest challenge?
A: What respect?
Q: Let's say. . .with teachers.
A: Teachers. Would you say challenge or concern?
Q: Ok, let's say headache!
A: Well, if maybe there ever was a time when they didn't feel free to be very frank with me to be honest and open and I guess, that may be somewhat inhibited by your associations. Somehow or another I think principalship has been placed in an almost forbidden area and, uh, teachers are viewing this principal as someone who is unapproachable or someone who is not another human being and can understand or someone who will take it out on you, so to speak, take it out on or whatever it is and I guess that was my biggest concern, is that, I'm just like you, I was a teacher before I was a principal and I've been where you are and for goodness sake give me the courtesy to let me know that you have a problem and if I can't help you we can get you some help. So I guess that was really my biggest concern for teachers.
Q: What was your biggest headache when dealing with parents?
A: Huh, those parents who have a hard time being realistic about their children's potential and I guess you might say that those parents who would not accept that Susie or John really did try and did try to do their best and their best wasn't good enough for mama or papa because mama or papa had been a Ph.D. or something and this was not, it was just not to their liking for a child not to excel, that is with grades, grade-wise. This, I guess was my biggest headache there for parents to be unrealistic about their children. After all, what is a grade?
Q: That's right. What do you think of career ladders for teachers? Career pay scales?
A: Uh, well, I guess if it doesn't become mundane. If it doesn't become, well I'm going to do this because that will get me another notch on the scale, but if it's a career ladder that is going to improve the performance of that person and because that person wants to be the best that he or she can be, I see that as an advantage. But simply its because I can take so many courses and get another. . .get another achievement on the pay scale and if those courses are going be to improve that person, well and good. But if its basket weaving or something of this nature and "I've got these three courses and I get to go on this other scale of pay", well I have mixed feelings about that type of scale.
Q: What do you think of merit pay for teachers?
A: Well merit pay for teachers is again a very controversial issue. I would say and I've yet to see a merit scale that does not falsify its real intent. The real intent is to improve performance and the merit pay does not do that.
Q: What do you think of the Standards of Quality established by the state school board?
A: I think they're very good. I think it's the best that we have. They're not quiet good enough and we need to keep on working. The good that comes out of it is the fact that they are a mandate, they're mandated and therefore it means that your legislators and your lay people must have some knowledge of these and we have a standard and that makes it. . .
Q: Consistent. . .around the state.
A: . . .consistent. . .and it makes it something to aspire to, it gives everybody something to come up to. Now, if we, if we have that standard and that's the only one we go for, well for heavens sake, when we reach a standard let's set it up a little bit higher and go and reach higher and higher.
Q: So these will need constant revision?
A: That's right. We should never arrive.
Q: What do you think of standardized testing procedures? SRA for the elementary students and the achievement tests?
A: Well, of course standardized tests are given by the teachers and teacher-given tests are just as different as you are individually, as an individual. So often the approach of the test conditions causes a child to do poorly, as well as, to do; to be overly anxious. You know. . .it's the best that we have and I believe that we start giving them in the fourth grade, the formal test. I feel that we should not make the child feel that so much weighs upon that performance that is a test and he should do his best, but that it is a test and that we have tests everyday, every minute. We so often make a big thing of that when we've been having tests all along and so therefore I feel like we don't condition our children to this kind of thing because we have called attention to that specific testing. He's being tested all the time.
Q: What do you think or the NTE for teachers? The National Teachers Exam.
A: Well, I think if its used for that teacher to measure herself and want to see how she measured with the national amount, well and good. But I think if its used to hire or fire then I think that its not designed to do that.
Q: Okay. What are the characteristics associated with effective schools?
A: The characteristics associated with effective schools. Where children are free, and relaxed and eager to learn with this orderly, an orderly background. The classrooms are organized to that degree where they do give children a sense of importance. Where there is a team effort and where the leadership is there is not of an authoritative nature. It is very much of a team effort, cooperative.
Q: What was the toughest decision you had to make as a principal?
A: Uh, well the toughest. The toughest, I guess, was dealing with a child's parent who had died. Being placed in the situation where I had to condition that child to face this. The child was just in the second grade. That was a tough decision.
Q: Were you a manager of the building or an instructional leader?
A: Well, I like to say I was both. I had to do certain management kinds of activities in order to get the building, see that it was kept up to a certain level of performance and offer the tenants as comfortable a background as possible so you are a manager whether you want to be or not. You are also a manager of people and your scheduling, this sort of thing. But this also can also be a cooperative effort through everyone else that works there and I would rather say, I feel that my instructional leadership was more prevalent, more prominent, more visible than was my managerial aspects.
Q: What was your code of ethics as a principal?
A: Uh, well very simply, my code of ethics as a principal would be the same as a person and I would never ask anyone to do anything that I wouldn't do myself and I certainly wanted to try to remember that I was a model for somebody whether I was aware of it or not. I was influencing somebody always. Uh, intentionally or nonintentionally and certainly the golden rule would permeate everything I did and felt and said.
Q: What are your feelings about the responsibility of the principal for identifying and developing future school administrators? Do you think that principals have that responsibility? Earlier we talked about mentoring programs for teachers.
A: I don't know that the principal should have that responsibility, but I do think that the principal is certainly in intimate relationship with teachers to observe the potential that they have and so therefore I think that, that principal would be remiss if he did not encourage, if he did not place the challenge upon the person he felt had these qualities or an outstanding teacher that he felt should be in a leadership position such as principalship offers. I feel that person would be remiss in not giving that potential person the encouragement to succeed.
Q: Did you ever encourage teachers that you had working for you to go into administration?
A: Yes, yes! I had a first grade teacher, who. . .it's really funny. . .She went from first grade to the high school, from high school into supervision in another county, from supervision into assistant superintendency and finally, back to the principalship which I told her she should have done in the beginning. (laughs) She is loving every minute of it. She is, she came back to the school where I was. She isn't there now but she is just loving every minute of the principalship. So now she knows what I meant that she should have done that because you can be an effective principal. The effective principal affects the classroom, affects the school, affects the community and basically the children. That is the role of effective school principal.
Q: That is the ultimate goal! Describe your typical work day as a principal.
A: (laughs) Well, your typical work day gets you there before anyone else except the janitor. Gets you into the cafeteria to check with all of those people who are coming in to see if there are any emergencies that may come, such as freezers that go out or is the ice cream all melted, get all the supplies for the day. Any of the absentees, you start before you leave home to find out if anybody, you're going to have to call and get substitutes but upon arrival to the school, this is how you start with the janitor and then cafeteria and then your secretary arrives and then you make your rounds of rooms to see if there are any needs of teachers and its good to put teachers in that respect because if you do, then they know that you're there and your there to help them, not to see whether or not. . .
Q: They're late! (laughs)
A: . . .they're late. Huh, and so then you start and generally after all the buses are in and everybody is settled in to his activity for the day then my routine was to check in, our routine was to check the attendance for the day and call it in and this sort of thing, get all of that stuff, in other words get the logistics taken care of. Then I would start in the classrooms and I would proceed through the morning and then I had a "lunch bunch" who had earned lunch with the principal and so I ate with those people. So by the end of the school year I had lunch with all the students. (laughs)
Q: My goodness!
A: So, I don't know how routine you want that to be but then it goes from the beginning of the day to the end of the day when you are, you check everybody out and everybody's out of the building. Everything's finished and you check up on everything like you would your own household--to be putting everything in order for the evening and you and the janitor are the last to leave. Of course if there are any parents that come in for conferences or there are any teachers who have problems or there are any children who have come back for what they left or things of this nature always happened. Any discipline problems or this sort of thing that needs to be done and you sort of get yourself ready, sort of condition yourself for the next day. And so your, my hours were something like around seven until about five-thirty.
Q: What caused you to choose retirement when you did. . .
Q: . . .from the principalship. I know you are still active.
A: Well, I left the principalship to go into the central office as an administrative assistant to the superintendent and that really was not by choice. I would have remained in the principalship had I had a choice because I loved being that close to the children. But at the particular time, we were changing the administration of the total county and I was the one, again, I happened to be the one with the widest experience, the one having had the educational training and background and they didn't want to bring someone in from the outside nor did they want to use someone that was younger in the system that had less experience than I did for this position. So they more or less created the position and put me in it as an assistant to the superintendent and so that was why I left the principalship and it was really not by choice and the principalship was by far my more creative role, however, I think now in the position that I found myself, I was really doing the same things I was doing in my school, but I was doing it in the county with all of the schools and had I entered into that earlier, I think I could have been more effective, but finally, physically, I began to wear down quicker. There were many traumatic events in the county itself and we were changing superintendent again and I felt that maybe it would be better for me to go at the particular time. Physically, I needed to.
Q: And you've been active in the Principal's Association ever since your retirement?
A: Oh yes, well I was very active throughout and that was, I guess that is one of the things that felt helpful to me in my naivete', I guess you would say, having not had the formal training for principalship, but having entered into it as an apprentice on my own so to speak, the association and the associating with people in the association gave me confidence and gave me the resource people to go to, to help me in so many of the areas where I needed help.
Q: What have I not asked that I should have?
A: If I had it to do over, would I do it again?
Q: Would you?
Q: Anything else?
A: (laughs) Well, that's the main thing. If I had it to do over, yes I would do it again and probably, would probably not do it differently I would probably stumble along and make the same foolish mistakes but love every minute of it and that's mainly what I would say if you'd ask.
Q: I've enjoyed talking with you today and I thank you for having me in your home today Mrs. Snead.
A: Well, I thank you for coming and this has been a fun kind of thing and I hope that one of these days I will see you in the principalship before I can, while I can still see well, and can come into your school and enjoy having mentoring time with you.
Q: Thank you.
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