his is February 18th, 1999 and I'm speaking with Jennifer Stuart in the War Memorial Hall of Virginia Tech in room 111 on her experiences as a elementary school principal.
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Q: Jennifer would you begin by telling me something about your family background, what your childhood interests, and things that you developed as a child, and maybe where you were born, and something about your education and your family background.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: I was born in Radford Virginia...I won't discuss the year...no, in 1945. I've lived in Pulaski County, Pulaski Virginia all my life. I have a brother, mother and father. Early childhood experiences were varied and many and pleasant when I look back. I lived near my elementary school so that I could come home for lunch. We were allowed to do that in those days. I went to a private kindergarten before the first grade. I had good experiences in Pulaski County Schools. I had a teacher in seventh grade, who probably really highlighted my awareness of education. And probably with her influence in my life is one reason I went into education. My parents and grandparents were great supporters of education, but she was a real role model for me.
Q: Do you remember anything in particular that stands out as something about her personality, or what was it, do you, can you pinpoint...
A: The connection was that I had her as a seventh grade teacher, she taught me piano and organ and she was my Sunday school teacher. We became very, very close and very good friends. She at that time had her doctorate and her name was Dr. Lillian Smith. I know when I graduated from high school, she gave me her Radford College class ring. And I still have that and that was probably the nicest graduation gift I received from anyone. That was the one that meant the most, maybe not the nicest, but the one that meant the most. She was just a terrific influence in my life. I became turned on to reading and reading became an extremely important part of my life when I was in seventh grade. She just had a wonderful, positive, affect, I think on all of her students that she had. She was always positive. You could always do anything you wanted to do with her from her point of view.
Q: What sort of college education, what preparation did you have for the field of education?
A: I went to Radford College for my Bachelor of Science, my Masters of Science. I majored in history and library science for my Bachelors. Went back, graduated in August and went back in September to start on my Masters degree and that was in guidance. And then came to Virginia Tech to work on certification for the principalship and completed the C.A.G.S. and now leading toward the final stages of the dissertation.
Q: So did you, were you a classroom teacher?
A: No, I was a librarian for 18 years before I went into the principalship. And started out at Fort Chiswell High School, Dublin Elementary, and then came to Pulaski County at Croser Elementary. Croser housed grades four and five at the town of Pulaski at that time. It was an open space school with the open space concept.
Q: What's the open space concept?
A: Open space concept at that time had a lot to do with individual learning stations that students could go to as best I recall. Open space school was no walls - team teaching. The teachers at that time elected to keep students for both the fourth and fifth grade year. Eventually some of that philosophy changed and they had them for the fourth grade year and some other teachers had them for the fifth grade year. Teachers work together in teams. And we thought it was very successful at the time. Now they have walls.
Q: What do you consider motivated you to enter the principalship?
A: Probably it derived from the principal I worked under at Croser Elementary and that was John Johnston. He seemed to give me a great deal of encouragement along those lines. And even though he had an assistant principal at that time, there were other duties that he let me perform within the confines and when I could within the school. Which sort of whetted my appetite somewhat and I knew eventually that that's what I wanted to do.
Q: What experiences or events in your professional life influenced your management philosophy?
A: I think some of that would go back to John Johnston and how he worked with his teachers. He felt like that he hired professional people to do the job and then he left you alone to be able to do your job. Not that he was not supportive - he was supportive, but he wasn't there, he gave you the freedom and opportunity to be yourself in the classroom, or whatever the position you held within the school...was there if you needed any...made sure you had your supplies or whatever you needed to teach - books, whatever. His philosophy was - while it appeared to be a hands-off philosophy, it wasn't as much hands off as one would tend to think. He knew exactly what was going on in the building. He knew exactly what was going on in the classrooms and that just happened to match more my style than some other people I had worked with before.
Q: What kinds of things did teachers expect principals to be able to do?
A: I think teachers expect their principals to be able to do many things. One is to be there for them. Be supportive of them in the classroom. To manage and handle discipline problems. To absolutely know the curriculum - know from where you speak. It's very difficult for teachers to but into suggestions being made when that person hasn't been in their shoes. I think honesty - above all, fairness, a sense of family, in that our school or our situation is a community of learners - a family of learners. It's not a "we and they", "it's an us" - it has to be for it all to work. And I think principals need to realize without ALL people within that building, cooperating and working together, you probably gain a little in the long run. And that goes down to the custodial staff and the rest of the staff of the building as well as teachers. And I think teachers have a right to expect THE very best from the person that is trying to have some direction for that school. Not that you may not always agree and I think that it's always important that you be able to talk about those things, and teachers feel that that openness is genuine.
Q: If you could summarize some of the points you just made, what does it take to be a good principal?
A: A good principal is caring about the people that work with that individual. A good principal has vision of where he or she would like to see the school go. A good principal hopefully has sense enough to know that with that vision you have to have followers - you cannot do it by yourself - you have to have people to buy in to what you want to do. I think also a sense of, I go back to the word fairness again because I think that's important. A sense that everybody within the learning community of that school is important. Everybody has a set of values, everybody is a stakeholder. And I think unless you give people credit for what they can do, and are doing, then you're selling them short as well as yourself. I think probably Ray Van Dyke, with Montgomery County Schools system is probably the one THE best school leaders that you will find anywhere around. I often told him you need to write a book about being an effective leader. He just has that quality that teachers really want to follow him wherever he goes. And he has good vision. So, when I look back and think what it takes, I also think of Ray Van Dyke along with that. I think you have to be knowledgeable as a principal - you have to know and you have to understand about the curriculum. It's not enough just to pass the books around and say this is what we're going to do. And to work with the teachers. I don't think you can ask them to do something that you're not willing to do yourself - be it curriculum or anything else you're doing.
Q: What position did Ray Van Dyke have?
A: He's principal of Kipps Elementary. And before that [?]
Q: There's been some attention given to the topic of leadership, could you describe some techniques which worked for you and perhaps an incident when you approach may not have worked so well.
A: That's a hard question - everyone has their own interpretation of leadership. Techniques that seemed to work best for me were...I think being able to see where we needed to go, being a visionary. I've been referred to as a change agent at one point in time, in a particular school. And you have to go in and had to make some changes and they weren't probably the most popular changes to make and there weren't very many that you had to make. I think the biggest thing was having a leadership style of a we and not an us and they; to bring teachers along to listen and I think that's probably one of the biggest things - sometimes we don't do, is we don't listen carefully to what teachers have to say and listen to the needs of the teachers. I think me style was...hopefully it was an open ended style where teachers felt like they could really express how they feel and what they felt we needed with leadership. I tried to have a clear vision of where I thought we needed to go, especially in the curriculum end of what we were doing. Let's come back to that one, it's a tough one.
Q: If you were advising a person who was considering a administrative job, what would that advice be?
A: To really know yourself. And to, if you were looking into going into a principalship, to make certain that you think that would fit that particular place where you were trying to seek a job. Many times philosophies are very different and sometimes it's very difficult for people to go against their grain of philosophy. To make sure that you would fit in that environment and they would fit in your environment. I think it would be a great profession to go into. Always to keep an open mind. Don't get into that tunnel vision philosophy to where you can't see the forest for the trees. But to certainly keep an open mind and to realize that there's no way that can possible get in there and do it all yourself. It takes everybody working together.
Q: How would you describe your approach to teacher evaluation? And give a statement about your philosophy about evaluation.
A: I feel very strongly about teacher evaluation. I feel like that teacher evaluation is there to help a teacher in the classroom, not be used in a detrimental way toward the teacher. I feel like the evaluation instrument is an instrument to look at how can we grow in what we're doing. Certainly to look at those good things that teachers do in the classroom. When you're in there doing an observation for an evaluation of a teacher, you're an extra pair of eyes in that classroom. And many things that you see that the teacher may not recognize that he or she is doing. And certainly you want to stress those good things. But also I consider that as an instrument of growth. And to be able to help the teacher to improve because I don't think that there's anyone who does everything perfect. And I think at the time when we say, well I can't improve on anything is when we're in big trouble. I think there's always room for improvement in anything you do for anybody. So I see that as an instrument, used to help teachers be a better teacher in the classroom; deliver instruction in a better way, for students to learn maybe perhaps in a different way. Not all teaching styles and learning styles are the same for everyone. And I think we've really got to be aware of that if you're doing the evaluation. And the teaching style of the teacher is so very different from your style you really have to step back and say, you know, this is this teacher - it may not be exactly the way that I would run the class or I would teach the class, but let's look at it in terms of the teacher and what he or she is bringing to the learning that goes on in the classroom.
Q: In your view, what should be the role of the assistant principal?
A: I think the assistant principal needs to be actively involved - I've never had an assistant principal. But I think it's more than dumping the discipline off to the assistant principal and a few things that the principal does not want to do. I think the assistant principal needs to be actively involved in the curriculum, all aspects of the school. And it should be more of a team effort, even though I know each one has his or her own duties. But a collaborative team effort of working together - and have that assistant principal involved in all aspects or as many as you can, not just in isolation of discipline or the few things that the principal does not want to do.
Q: What do you see as some of the most important characteristics of an effective school?
A: Certainly effective school is where positive learning is taking place. There is an atmosphere when you walk in the building that this is a warm, inviting place for children, for students, parents, community to be. An effective school is where I think teachers want to come and are eager to come and teach and learn together. I think effective schools really stress learning in a positive way. Those schools are looking for ways for students to be successful learners and successful citizens without very many failures. I think a positive attitudes about students and learning and teachers feeling a great deal of self-worth. And the fact that teachers feel empowered somewhat, and are able to make decisions about what they teach in the classroom and decisions about curriculum as much as they can given the SOLs and the state guidelines and certainly the guidelines from the county. But effective schools are where students are learning and succeeding and being successful.
Q: So what would you classify then as a less successful school, an ineffective school? What happens in an ineffective environment?
A: I think probably in an ineffective environment you're not working together for the overall goal of learning taking place and the students and the teachers being successful as learners and teachers. And I think it's life-long learning. I think an ineffective school probably does not have goals and visions or set goals and visions of where they want to go and work toward those. Ineffective schools are not harmonious. And probably don't lend that well to the learning that needs to take place.
Q: Administrative duties are very complex. And if there were an area that you would change in order to improve the efficiency of administration, what would that be?
A: It would have to be paperwork. Tons and tons of paperwork. You spend a great deal of time filling out mounds and mounds of paperwork. Probably to be able to change some of that, even the fact that the teachers have so much paperwork to do. You really need to let them go in and teach. but to somehow minimize the amount of paperwork that had to go on within a school for the principal as well as everyone else.
Q: Besides the amount of paperwork, is there another thing you can think of right off hand that's ineffective or that is inefficient in the way typically work?
A: Not unless it would be some type of time constraints. I think sometimes we spend a lot of time teaching to time slots rather than teaching curriculum per se. Many times I think it would be nice if there's not a different way we could be involved in the teaching of subject matter rather than 45 minutes here and 30 minutes there for various subjects. I know that block scheduling has probably helped a great deal in maybe high schools with that. And I know that some schools have made great strides in blocking out time and doing some really creative scheduling in their schools. But I think you always teach to or teaching within a parameter of a set of time and that could be easily worked around and changed. Probably also the way the testing is done. We teach a certain way and tend to test in a separate manner and I think if we could ever bring those together, and work those out a little more efficiently, it would be better all around for students - student achievement and accountability.
Q: Compensation, salaries, and so forth have changed a lot in education in general, not just for administrators, but all those involved, how have you seen salaries grow and do you think that salaries are now adequate or up to the level. What's your feelings about salaries and compensations for school employees?
A: I don't think teachers are ever paid enough for what they do. I don't know that you can ever pay teachers enough for what they do. I think the salary packages, I think teachers and school employees are looking to those as benefits, and looking at the benefit package much more realistically now than maybe we used to. Because that is such a big part of the salary package any more. No, I think salaries should be much higher than they are. And I don't know what it's ever going to take for us to get there, with that. But I think with the amount of work that teachers do, because their day does not stop at 3:30 in the afternoon. The usually have a mound of stuff that they take home to work on. And I think that the public perception is that you work for nine months out of the year, you get paid this huge amount and you're off for all the holidays, and summers, and I think that mentality still exists with some people. And I think until we can really change that, and until the board of supervisors - who approves the school board budget, and the schools really go in and, I don't like to use the word demand, but demand more for teachers or for administration, or for just school people in general. That really needs to be worked on. We've been trying to work on that for a long time and I don't know how much gains we've made realistically with that. I know salaries tend to go up. And I think some of that goes back to the state legislatures. I've always told the teachers that you really belong to your teaching organization. And that you cannot just be political at salary time. It is an ongoing venture and I think teachers probably, realistically need to be much more political than they are especially regarding salaries and the changes that they see that needs to be made.
Q: Do you think that, how do you feel about salaries and so forth for principals?
A: I don't know what the salaries are at this point in time because I've been out of that cycle for a while. I think they continue to still grow, and I think they should continue to still grow. And until you can maybe even get it at a national level with salaries...I don't know that anything will ever be enough for all people...probably never will but I think it needs to be much more adequate than it probably is.
Q: Some states have collective bargaining power but Virginia doesn't. What do you think about that?
A: There again I think teachers need to be more political throughout the entire year rather than just at salary time. You need to be in there and be active and be involved in politics. I believe a long time ago teachers were discouraged to do that, that's been many years before your time. I don't know that that's the route to go. I know one year when I was president of our education association in Pulaski County, we did a work to the contract, back then. I didn't think it was very successful but that's what the majority voted to do and it happened at Easter time. So we started before Easter, had Easter break, and came back and it probably really wasn't the best time to do that. I don't think anytime you do things like that, this is just purely my personal philosophy, that that helps anyone. And when teachers say they work to the contract, well, that's O.K.. We're there to educate children, we are professional, and I think that we need to act in a professional manner. That's just never been my way of doing things. You certainly never want to hurt children and I don't know that...I see that some states are out for weeks at a time, on strike. I just don't think that that's in the best interest of what we're to do - what we're doing. Now that may be because I come from Virginia and we don't do that and I've never been involved in that other than our work to the contract, that is years ago. But I think there's other ways of getting around and doing those kinds of things and still getting what we need as educators. I don't have all the answers for that and I don't know what many of them would be other than for teachers to be politically active.
Q: A thing that's been in the news a lot lately has centered around standardized testing as a means to improve education. Would you discuss your experience with standardized testing and provide any views on its affect on the quality of the overall instructional program?
A: Well see I don't believe in testing. I believe in having teachers, in allowing teachers to go into a classroom and teach children. I know that we need to have accountability and I know that we need to have means that say we are accountable and that our students are learning and ways to measure this, and I understand that. However, I have never been a grand proponent of testing. I feel that many times we are, we spend so much time getting ready...to get the children ready to test and then to test and then to remediate, that that sometimes is what we get so involved in and that is about all we get involved in. I don't know, that just really hits a nerve for me. Not all children are good test takers and surely to goodness, in the light of education, and in the light that we are supposed to be able to monitor classrooms, monitor learning, measure learning, that we could come up with a system that is better than just out and out testing. Whether it be responding to parents in a narrative way about the child. And if you do that, that takes a great deal more time from the teacher to have to sit and write a narrative, rather than saying that Johnny or Susie or Sally scored in the 50th percentile on the test that he took. And to me it's amazing that we settle for the 50th percentile. Because that's average. And we think that if we barely make the cutoff, or we do make the cutoff, and we make a few points above the cutoff, that's wonderful. Well it is wonderful if we're so locked into testing that we sure want to make sure that we meet that minimum cutoff for testing so that we're not considered failures. And then I think you need to think about in terms of what you consider failure to be. But I think we've probably need to rethink this thing of 50th percentile - wow, that's good, that's great, because we want more of that than our children, we want more than our children just to be average. And I think sometimes we set standards in our own divisions, our own schools, that probably students could be much more successful in achieving, and we're not willing to recognize that. Testing is going to be here because businesses make tons of money from testing. And we're certainly in education we certainly support that. I know that Round Hill Elementary at one time was an ungraded school, Round Hill primary school. And I would really like, if I had a school, I'd really like to see to where we didn't fail anyone and that failure was not a word that was in our vocabulary. For example, if you were my student and we were working, say on a project, and you turned your project in to me...rather than give you a grade...and say you knew it wasn't your best work, so it might be a grade of a "C" or a "B", I'm not saying that you're not gonna get an "A", but I think what would be really grand to do with students whether it be papers, whether it be a test that you're given, is to look at and see what you really want that student to learn from this process. I would much rather give your project back to you, for us to sit down and have a conference and say O.K., tell me why you did your project thus and so, and let me make some suggestions. And then you be willing to take the project back and work on it and improve it, because I think that's how we learn. And I think that's how students have a better understanding and can grasp concepts of what they need to know about subject matter, probably a great deal more. If I gave you a "B" of a "C" on your project, you're gonna take your project home, well Mom I got a "B" or a "C" or an "A", and what are you gonna do with this? And that wonderful dialogue in between that we could have had as learners, both of us as learners, and as teachers, because, see really believe that students are also good teachers as well as learners. And I think that we need to be teachers as well as learners. We miss all that wonderful rich dialogue and that amount of leaning just sort of falls through the cracks, and we loose that.
Q: What would you say was the key to your success as a principal?
A: Oh dear, I don't know. I would hope it might be pushing the envelope a little. I don't think I ever expected more out of anyone than I was willing to give myself. To stay on the cutting edge of what is going on. And to look at that and make sure that we as a school were involved. Probably pushing a little too hard at some points in time. I know after my first year as a principal I had a...John Johnston called me and said 'O.K. did you complete everything that was on your list?' And I said yes I did. And he said, 'well that was probably a foolish thing to do.' Because you could have gone on for years with that list. But I enjoy being active and positive and always wanting to push that envelope that we should be doing this. Repeat that question again.
Q: Your key to success as a principal.
A: Hopefully being enthusiastic and innovative and wanting everyone to be successful and succeed I would hope that that might be it. You might get different answers from different people. Remembering that you cannot please all the people all the time with all the decisions that you make. And that at the end of the day you reflect and say I hope I made the best decisions for the majority. Or the best decisions that I could possibly make given whatever circumstances that you have. Also, being nice and kind to people. And to be able to at the end of the day to reflect and see that your day was a positive, good learning day for all.
Q: You mentioned at the end of the year that John Johnston called you and asked you...did you actually have a list?
A: Well when I went in, and this was my first principalship, this was at Riner Elementary, it was a wonderful, wonderful community. I guess I had all these preconceived ideas of what a principal should do and be and the kind of learning that should be going on in the classroom. But I really went into, which I think was fortunate for me, into a very strong, supportive staff. They knew what they were doing, and I saw where we could push that envelope a little bit more and do a little bit more and expand a little bit more and provide a little bit of different types of learning enhancements for students. One of the teachers told me at the end of that year, she said, 'now I've enjoyed this year and it's been a hard year,' she says 'but now when you come back next year, don't have so many things on that list for us to do.' And then years later I ran into her and she said 'you know' she said 'I look back and I really miss all those things that we were doing.' From a teacher's standpoint. But we did do a lot of things. We had a lot of activities going on. We piloted the foreign language program. We had parents involved in, there's another whole area, of parent involvement, and I think that is crucial to the success of any school, is having parents involved. Parents put together a playground...raising money...just so many things that added to, I thought. Plus the school, it was really hard to add to that school because they had so many wonderful things going on. And Jean Payton was the principal that I followed there and he certainly had a wonderful style about him and how he had run that faculty. Or how they had worked together as a faculty. And that's probably the key, is working together. And remembering that everybody on that staff, every single person, has something positive to contribute.
Q: Do you remember anything else that was on that list, that was, you feel particularly satisfied about, accomplishing, or anything else about that list...like the playground...
A: I think the playground sort of evolved. And there were probably a lot of little things. We did a class book. Teachers didn't like to have their pictures made but they had to have their picture made for that. Which I thought was nice because you could always hand that to a student, or give that to a new teacher and that way they could sort of see faces of students. That would have been a very helpful tool for me coming into a new school, if I had that, because I think it's important that you be able to call the students, especially in elementary, by their name. They enjoy that and they expect that and they should expect that. And parents like that, you know my child's name. I did a pencil machine. Brought in a little bit of money to our supply room. I don't know how much the teachers enjoyed that was just one of the those things. Then sometimes we'd have lunches outside...have the custodians to take the tables outside. We just did a lot of things. I probably threw away that list - I probably wish I had kept it now. But it was a busy year. We were also going through a second year of a self-study. I think when the teacher made that comment about having so many things for us to do, that the self-study probably in and of itself should have been enough, rather than me adding to...all the things that I thought it would be good for us to do. We paired up, we looked at our curriculum, we paired up with Radford University. We were looking at building educational partnerships - business partnerships, and we did an educational partnership with Radford University science department rather than a pure business partnership. So we were always had things going - lots of things going on, lots of things to do.
Q: How'd you come up with that list? Where did the items that were on that list come form?
A: I guess some of my own baggage of what I thought should be happening in the school, certainly, I'm sure part of that. And then I think the list just sort of kept growing as I would get in and think, ooh, we need to change this or probably there's another better way to do this than the way we're doing...or let's look at this another way, or why are we thinking about that. And it just kept growing 'cause I really am an idea person. I like to come up with lots of things, lots of ideas. Not that I really like to carry all of them out. So that job got to be for the teachers to do, more than me to do. It just sort of evolved. And the second year, I guess maybe the first year I was, I just wanted to make sure we did everything that we possibly could for the students...and to give them such a good experience, which they were already having a wonderful experience at Riner, and that was just a very unique situation. So I don't know...that I really remember...I do remember a teacher saying please for next year don't have so many things for us to do on your list. That got to be sort of a joke. But it was O.K. We did a lot, we accomplished a lot.
Q: If you had to do it all over again, you were gonna go back into principalship, what do you think would help you that you didn't know before since you have had the experience...what do you think looking back now would have been helpful to you in your preparation to make the job easier or go smoother?
A: Probably for me not to be so intense. But there again I'm an intense person with things I have a love for and enjoy doing. Probably not to take myself so seriously. Probably just to take time to really, truly enjoy what I'm doing and living in that particular moment. I can remember Dr. Dodge asked us at a staff meeting one time what we were about or what we say about ourselves at this particular point in time and I said you know I'm really trying to live in the moment that I'm in, and not worrying about things that have happened in the past, that you've made a decision about, or things you can't change, or look into the future. But to really enjoy the moment that you're in. I think that would be so nice - that is what I tend not to do, so many times.
Q: You mentioned Dr. Dodd? Was he the superintendent?
A: Dr. Harold Dodge. He was the superintendent at that time. And he was a visionary person...had a great deal of vision for the county and where he thought the schools ought to go...extremely opinionated but I thoroughly enjoyed working for him.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for the program either at this university or any university that you know of that you think could be included, that maybe should be included in preparation for principalship and leadership role or administration role?
A: That's interesting because I'm looking at that right now with the dissertation...is how colleges and universities are preparing principals in four states. So, I'm getting ready to send out a survey to the individual colleges asking about their programs. When I came through the program, it was the isolated classes rather than the cohort model. And I think the cohort model, probably brings a great deal to the program. You're in with a group of people that you work with and go through the program with for two years. You have a built in support system. You get to talk about your ideas, you meet one night a week. Then at the end of the semester, you have a whole 'nother group of people that you change, you get to know. While that's well, good, and fine, I really like the cohort model. I think that brings probably a lot of credibility to the program. I definitely think you need the internship for principals. I don't think that that would be anything that you would not want to consider. And I know it's very difficult for people to be able to take the time off to do that because counties are not willing to financially support that all year long. And I think that that is something that is absolutely crucial and something that I hope Tech continues with, with their program, is the internship. And if there was anyway to highlight that anymore to get counties to be more agreeable with giving teachers time off and still teachers getting paid while they did the internship. Some counties do that better than others. But I still think those are two areas that you need to look at.
Q: Some principals have the view that teachers and other staff members are in general well-motivated, and reliable, self-starters, while other principals feel that they must closely monitor the activities of their employees to ensure that they are performing up to standard. What supervisory approach did you customarily use in your career as a principal?
A: I think getting to know the individuals as individuals, not just teachers in your building...but really people. Looking to see what strengths they have and playing to those strengths. Certainly if someone who is like me does not like a lot of recordkeeping, that would not be a task that I would probably want to assign to a teacher in the building if I knew that he or she was not a real strength that they had. I think you need to look at the teachers and to see what they are most successful in their teaching and what they're most comfortable with. Everybody...and play to that strength. I don't think you ever want to set anyone up for failure. I think that maybe says more about you as a person than it does about them as individuals.
Q: The question sort of asks about two types of leadership. One is a leader who looks at their employees as being self-starters, well motivated themselves. And the other type is one that sort of feels like they need to stay involved with them, to ensure that, to monitor them in a sense, to kinda see that they are reaching a certain standard. So the question is, do yourself as sort of a monitoring kind of a leader or do you see yourself more as a...see your employees as being more reliable or self-starters?
A: I think self-starters...I'm a self-starter...it's hard for me to monitor people simply because I don't like to be monitored myself and I'm just not comfortable with that and I've just never sort of felt the need to have that done...for me. And so that's not something that I've probably enjoyed doing for other people. I think where you find an area of, where someone need to improve, there again you work with that person, on that. If you want to call that close monitoring someone, you can. I sort of think of that in more terms of working with, not monitoring the person. It might be that the person just needs to sit down and be able to talk through something...go in and team teach with the person...go in and teach a lesson for the person and see if they have any questions or see if you can maybe teach something in a different way. We did some video taping in our school - that was a big eye-opener for some teachers, especially first year teachers. And that was certainly for them to take back and for them to review on their own. If they wanted to share that with me that was wonderful. We would sit down and look at it. But it was really a self-monitoring way that they could look at themselves and do some self-improvement without feeling the great pressure of oh dear, this gonna be on tape, this is gonna probably...something be done with it. No and it wasn't for that. It was for those teachers to use it as a review for themselves - a way to improve.
Q: Different models of leadership classify a leader as being assertive, supportive, or contemplative. Would you categorize yourself in one of these areas and what makes you feel like that is the area that you are in?
A: I think originally, probably I would say assertive. Simply because I like to see things get done. And I may assert my beliefs and my thoughts and my ideas, maybe sometimes a little bit more than they wanted to be asserted, or somebody was willing to accept the assertion. But there again, I'm a person with ideas and I'm innovative and I really like to see things get done. I'm not a status quo person, so I'm always in the midst of trying to improve, trying to change, trying to learn.
Q: Sometimes principalships has been known to be a tense environment - a tense job to have. What kinds of things did you do to help relieve that stress or that tenseness, or to stay sane after dealing with the principal job under those stressful conditions?
A: I probably don't think I knew enough to be able to do that, because I was just so intense on making sure everything was right everywhere. I did have a teacher though, Luther Kirk, who was a fifth grade teacher, wonderful teacher, he came back through the Tech program, was a principal and now teaches at Longwood College. And I could tell when he thought I was tense, because he would wear one of those funny, glass pieces with the big nose, and he would come in and knock on my door, and I would be busy or something, and there he would be...or I would see him somewhere and he would put that on, and I would laugh. So, probably the laughter helped a great deal - again not taking things so seriously. But there were days when Luther would come through with a funny face on and it was a welcomed relief after I got over the initial shock of him doing that there for awhile. Did that answer your question or not?
Q: That's fine. Another question I had was, there things that good leaders it's been said do to encourage their employees or subordinates. What sort of things did you do to try to encourage the teachers or staff members at your school?
A: I tried to encourage them to take a real conscious look at what we were doing and where we were going. Encourage them by trying to bring things into the school like pilot for the foreign language program, into the building and get them involved; making sure that they had time off to go to conferences; trying to encourage them and try to have funding available somehow by someway if they needed it. Whether it was central office and things that central office was paid for.
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