October 13, 1987, Marvis Wynn was a principal at Camelot Elementary School and retired in 1980.
| Back to "W" Interviews | Index of Interviews | Protocol | Home |
Q: I thought we'd start out just with you describing the school that you last were principal of or you could describe the two schools, it they were similar or different.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Oh, they were quite different. The first school where I was principal was a fairly traditional building, we had only two classes that were special education, and those were mildly retarded. I was only there two and one-half years and I think it was a good experience for me. I think my main experience as far as growing as a principal, came at Camelot. Now Camelot, when I first got there, um, I was asked to go there because they had some problems. The principal had had a heart attack, they'd had subs in there, she'd come back, she'd had to go out again, and there really wasn't any leadership. The teachers were on their own. Area 4, I guess I was in at that time, wanted it pulled back together. But the first thing I noticed, was the hearing (impaired) program. They were down in the back pod, there were five classrooms, and you know the resource area? There was a class in there; no windows, those kids were wild little animals and I don't blame them, I would have been too.
Q: Did they have a Hearing Program principal or were you in charge of all of it?
A: I was in charge of the whole thing. It didn't take me three weeks to know that had to change. But, I had to start a little bit slowly because there was alot of fear among the regular education teachers. There was some concern, I'll put it that way, among the hearing impaired teachers (teachers of the hearing-impaired). They weren't used to anybody telling them what to do, either. It took about six months and I will say Connie, she was a teacher then, Connie, at that time, was very helpful. We had inservice within the school on how you would work with hearing-impaired youngsters and what we did then was pull them out and put them in the (appropriate) pods; fourth grade hearing-impaired went with the fourth grade kids and so forth.
Q: That's how it still is. Just the preschool, the three year olds, there are two classrooms, and the parent-infant now is in the resource room, which was requested because she wanted a smaller, more cozy room.
A: I think what impressed me so, was long before they had mandated mainstreaming, we were mainstreaming.
Q: Yes, that is nice.
A: We not only mainstreamed, we were "illegal" in that wee "crossed-mainstreamed". The thing we had to watch for was that they didn't put into the teacher of the hearing-impaired (class) remedial children from the regular program. Because, then it could be considered that we were stigmatizing those youngsters. So whenever there was this "cross-mainstreaming" we made sure that the teacher of the hearing-impaired had at least an average achieving class, higher, if the team decided that is the way it should go. Now we mainstreamed, of course, first we started out with lunch, then P.E. and then, ah, we never did really mainstream in music, wee felt there were unique needs. The language arts (too, there were unique needs).
Q: Yes, it is still that way....So you started it all then.
A: The teachers became so enthused. I still hear from two teachers that are teachers of the hearing-impaired. They are raising families now and they finally got to the point where they felt they were "Camelot" teachers and not just teachers of the hearing-impaired, (housed in Camelot) because they wanted to be part of the whole thing. The behavior of those children, oh it improved on thousand percent. I wanted to ask you something, Nancy. Do you still take in children from the neighborhood, the four year old group?
Q: Yes, and also the three year olds. We have just one (normal hearing language model) in each classroom because our numbers are up. I have nine kids this year, and one of them is normal hearing. I guess that previously, there were two normal hearing children in each class but our numbers have been very high.
A: Yes, I saw that you have an assistant principal this year.
Q: Yes, she just started last week. Yes, she is brand new and I don't even think she has an office.
A: I wonder where her office will be. Has the regular enrollment gone up that much?
Q: Yes, that is why we were allowed to get her. We also have a trailer in the back of the school and wee are getting a double-sized trailer, sometime.
A: Yes, we had that at one time.
Q: Well, you can tell there is a real good relationship with the regular teachers and the hearing-impaired teachers. I am right next to the second grade teacher for the hearing impaired's room. She is really a part of the Camelot staff and part of the hearing program staff. She is almost more a part of the regular program staff since any time they have team meetings, or do any parent programs, it is always for the second grade and those hearing-impaired kids are second graders. It is really nice and people are very impressed when they walk through and observe the program.
A: Yes, that was, I think, my achievement. I really did feel that we accomplished alot.
Q: Did you have an assistant principal then?
A: No. Finally Connie was made kind of a specialist for the hearing-impaired and she came up to the office. She did not become a principal, as such, until after I left. She, of course, was responsible for the hearing-impaired program and she had inservice for them when it was separate and different and needed, for those teachers. I would say she was certainly a helper to me. I dumped alot of administrative things on her that I didn't really like to do. She didn't either. I had another person in there for a year. They called her an administrative assistant because they didn't know what to do with her, and they put her there.
Q: Did she have more training then a teacher?
A: No, she had the educational background, but she had been a teacher in the county for a long time.
Q: Had she been a teacher at Camelot?
A: No, they brought her in. Now the, I did have an assistant principal at the other school. She was only 25, when I chose her, and she now is still working in the county at a school with over a thousand students.
Q: What level school?
A: Elementary. She has grown to become really, one of the leaders inn the county. I'm really proud of her. I like her very much.
Q: Twenty-five, that is young for an assistant principal?
Q: Did she have her Master's Degree?
A: Yes. She went to William and Mary and took summer courses. She traveled back and forth here, from the time she graduated.
Q: How did you utilize her in your school?
A: I had a bad habit of giving her jobs I didn't like. It really wasn't fair.
Q: Well, sometimes jobs you don't like are jobs they might like.
A: Well, she was very good with supplies and I hated that, too. She also was very good with teachers, and I gave her every opportunity to help teachers. And because she was young, and because she...I don't think she posed the same types of problems for teachers as sometimes principals do. So, she was very, very, good with them. She did help with buses, alot of the administrative things. The one thing that we worked on was her writing. She did not like to write. I insisted. Even today, we both belong to the Business and Professional Women's Organization, and when something needs to be done, she is going to be the state president next year, she'll say "Marvis, won't you look over this" or "won't you write this for me?" or "I wrote this all by myself." Of course she writes well now, but she didn't like to write and I insisted. The school was quite large when I got there, as far as population. It did go down and it was down for seven years. I understood that there was only about three hundred and some children in that school four or five years ago, not counting the hearing-impaired children. They closed one school and moved some children on over and so forth so it has grown again.
Q: Now did your assistant principal's young age seem to have an impact on any of the teachers, positive or negative?
A: No, she had a personality that could handle and cope with them. She really knew how to deal with people, probably better than I. The reason I say that, when I was placed there, it was the middle of the year and three of the teachers there had applied for the principalship. They were a little bit out of joint.
Q: You got to chose your assistant principal?
A: Right, but not always. At this time, he didn't even know I was coming. When I went to Camelot it would have been a little easier if they would have done that because then I would have had a support system already built in. As it was, I had to build that support and I think it takes two, maybe three years, for that support to become yours. I don't think that you can really accomplish all of the things that you really want to accomplish without having spent that much time. The ones that are not too happy, with you, have a chance to go some place else.
Q: Was it a Camelot "Family" when you were principal, was that your plan?
Q: That may be Mr. Rucker's doing.
A: Yes, he of course, has taught a lot of Human Relations courses. No, we didn't do that, but we did develop a team leader concept. Out of each team there was one person, mostly chosen by me, to be the team leader. Alot of the decisions in the school was made by the team, this group. We had meetings and then they would take them back to the teachers.
Q: We still have that concept. The only change has been the addition of a preschool team leader rather than having the preschool be included with the kindergarten, since the kindergarten consists of regular ed and hearing-impaired, and the preschool program is solely for the hearing-impaired.
A: That was a way of involving, we had a large staff, even though there may not have been a large population of youngsters, because we had the hearing staff. Large staff meetings are bores and I found them never to be satisfying. We had to have them, but, it was much easier to and less painful to have the team leaders help make decisions. Then go back to their own people they knew very well. They also could bring any concerns, so it worked very well.
Q: I find it works well.
A: With large staff meetings, you have some that just sit there because they think it is rather foolish, they'd rather go home, etc. Then you have a few who are very interested and can't keep quiet. So it worked very well. It cut down alot on total team meetings.
Q: Did you find a specific technique helped you out the most, especially having two staffs?
A: I'm not sure there was anything very unique. The one thing that I found that you had to do is, recognize the uniqueness of the hearing program, but also insist they were teachers of children. One of my pets is that I am not a school teacher, I am a teacher of children. These youngsters are not that different.
Q: Especially the oral ones, they really can fit in.
A: Right, they want to belong, they want to be like everyone else. If you can treat them as a principal, like everyone else, and insist that the teachers do, I mean, give them an opportunity to know all children. I really think that is the only thing I did as a leadership style. I didn't do it alone. I mean, there were really strong people there who believed that.
Q: That is a good philosophy. The parents of the hearing impaired probably really like that philosophy. I think that is their goal, to have their child thought of as a child in the school, instead of the hearing-impaired child in the school..
A: The only parents I think were uncomfortable with it were the deaf parents. Eventually, many of them took their children out, to Gallaudet.
Q: What did you feel your teachers expected from you as a principal?
A: Some of them expected me to leave them alone. Some of them expected me to answer all their problems. I always remember the first year and the teachers were not too happy with me, and an older teacher came down to see me and she said "I'm glad you're here', she said "I don't need a mother", and apparently the principal before had taken, well some of them lived in her house, and was very motherly to these young teachers, and it wasn't my style. Martha appreciated it. She said I don't need a mother, well I never was the mother type, although I have two children, I was mother to them, but.....
Q: I understand.
A: I feel they expected leadership from me. one thing that most of the teachers could do was come down and talk. We used to have some really good conversations. They'd come down at 4:00 or 4:30 in the afternoon and we'd be there until 5:30 or 6:00 just agreeing, agreeing, but those were good meetings. If a teacher was unhappy she usually, even he, I had a couple of men who would come down, one is now a principal. We used to have some knock downs, honestly, I enjoyed him so much. I think that they just want you to answer their problems.
Q: I was curious to your response for this question because as a classroom teacher, I often wonder exactly what my expectations are of my principal. She is in her teachers rooms 3 to 5 times each week for just two or three minutes, yet I know she is aware of my teaching and also aware of the progress the children in my class are or are not making.
A: Yes, she is an instructional leader, there isn't any doubt about it. I used to feel a little envious of her because she didn't have all of the administrative kinds of chores to take care of that a principal of a regular school has. That's one of the reasons, until they changed the system, that I used to push that off. Writing your annual improvement plan, doing a self-study, all of that.....We used to say that you could go into a classroom for two minutes and know what's happening. When a teacher would say "you haven't been in my room" I'd say "I was in there yesterday" and she'd say "But you didn't stay". But, you don't have to stay. I mean you had to do a regular observation, but, you could get the feel of the class and what was happening there if you went in fairly often, but you didn't have to stay. You might even go in to ask a question or pull a student. I found that was an effective way to see what was going on in the school.
Q: I found that I liked it when my principal would pop in at various times and just stay a few minutes because then when it was time for the formal evaluation, I found the anxiety was not high.
A: Yes, that's very important. Although I always remember I could identify two teachers in that school who were petrified when I walked in. I wouldn't stay too long because I knew that they were not doing what they could do. That's just the nature of the beast, I guess.
Q: Was this feeling ever resolved?
A: Oh. I don't know; She's probably still there, and I don't want any of this to go back, but one was just very shy, an unsure person. She'.. never be a top notch teacher, but she planned, she went through all the motions that were necessary, and was not bad enough that she was "unsatisfactory". One time I had her go to an inservice for me down at the 14th Street bridge Marriott. I asked her to go down and then bring back to me some of the "goodies". She was born in Arlington, she could not find the Marriott. Now, I think she knew where it was and I think it frightened her to death to even go there with a bunch of strangers. If she had been a brand new teacher, I would maybe have tried to get her to go into a different vocation. But she had been in the classroom for about five years before I got there, and so when anyone came into the room.....she did get used to me, she didn't mind me as much as others but she was very unsure of herself.
Q: What do you think about merit pay, such as what we are going through now (in Fairfax County)?
A: For three years, until this Fall, I have been on the Superintendents Community Advisory Council. I know all about "every thing", No, I'm kidding.
Q: How do you like the set up of the observations?
A: I think they are horrendous, in the sense of the time required. It is just.... I'm very glad I am not a principal, to tell you the truth. But the idea of merit pay I have always been for. Which is, I know, almost unheard of. When I was teaching in the county it began to be a habit that "Marvis does this", "Marvis can lead this", "Marvis can go and do a county inservice", and I reached a point where I felt if I am doing all this I should, something should change. So, I went up to the junior high and taught up there for a year and then they offered me an assistant principalship. I think I am one of the very, very few people in this county who never went in front of the board; I was never interviewed for the assistant principal or principal jobs, which is unheard of. But that's the way it was. I was one of the first assistant principals in an elementary school.
Q: Was the principal real eager for an assistant principal?
A: Yes, but he wasn't too eager to have somebody hoisted on him. He only stayed in the county one more year, the year I was there, and then he moved back to California.
Q: Did you get to take over the Principalship?
A: No, they brought in another one, which was fine with me. I hadn't even finished my Master's at that time. I learned a great deal. I had started my Master's at the University of Virginia. Then when they offered me the job there was no way I could take a summer off because it was an eleven month job. So they gave me three courses, they gave me credit for, and I had to start over at American University. I went nights.
Q: How did you evaluate teachers?
A: I hated that job worse than anything. I started, before EBO ever came into existence, having a conference with the teacher at the beginning of the year and asking the teachers to pick three things they wanted to do during the year that would improve their teaching. Teachers are very good at identifying what they needed to do. There were some exceptions, sometimes we had to negotiate and then in the middle of the year, I, we, had an evaluation on where they were and when I evaluated them, I evaluated them almost entirely on the three things that they had said they had wanted to work on.
Q: That's fair. We do something like that, still.
A: It's part of the EBO. I found that teachers did not hear what I was saying if we hadn't come to some kind of agreement ahead of time, ah, and put it in writing. Maybe sometime during the year I would say to a teacher, "Gosh, the class is really unruly the last couple of times I wan in there", "Maybe I could help you with that"; and nothing changed, even though I went in and helped. Then if I gave them a comment that this needs to be worked on, they would be hurt because they didn't hear me say "You better work on it". But, if at the beginning of the year, and very often they would say it at the beginning of the year, I had no trouble with that. (The teacher would say) "I think I better work on that" and I'd say "OK, let's put it down", and then every once in a while I'd say "How are you doing on your objectives?"
Q: Did they have a "personal/professional" goal as well as "classroom oriented" goals?
Q: Well, this year, I think, since it is a transition between "skillful teacher"/Merit Pay, and then EBO like last year, I just had my conference with my principal and I had my professional goal and classroom goals, but she doesn't have to evaluate me on them like before, since it is not my "yar" to be evaluated.
A: So next year you get the "biggie".
A: Well, I really think I have the whole big thing in there that they gave us at the Superintendent's Advisory Council. I think it's pretty horrendous to try to deal with. The principal is only one of the three who is going to do this observing, but it still is very time consuming to do it in the manner that they say you have to do it.
Q: The literal notes?
A: Yes, and the inservices they had to go through; looking at tapes, it is hard; you don't really see it unless you get...... ah experience will help you.
Q: That is why alot of teachers are saying that they don't want to be the "guinea pigs" in terms of volunteering to be observed by some outside person in the county, therefore, preferring to have their own principal doing the observations (for Level I). Feeling more comfortable with their principal since they have already formed a "relationship" with their principal.
A: Oh sure, it's scary. I know one principal in the county had a heck of a time last year because.....
Q: Was it a pilot school?
A: He was a pilot, and they finally gave him a position up in central office this year. He wanted that anyhow, but I heard the superintendent say that he had a rough deal and that it wasn't his fault. Knowing this person, I would say it wasn't either.
Q: I had some teachers in a class of mine at Virginia Tech that were in pilot programs and all I heard was negatives.... about the competition and the sharing ceased and the doors were always closed. They were High School and Jr. High School teachers.
A: You have gathered which are the really good teachers in your area. You know those. I don't think teachers always know, but by and large they do. Those teachers, master teachers, it would be a shame if they would have been kept there, so what do they do? they took me and made me an assistant principal, they took Connie, and made her an an administrator, but, if wee could have stayed as master teachers we would have contributed more to the school system I think in the long run than even as... well, I don't know, maybe not.
Q: I see what you are saying.
A: That was the only way they could reward us for what we had done and were doing.
Q: Instead of keeping you at the teacher level but perhaps, paying you as a principal.
A: Paying us at level II for merit, I'm not sure this is going to work.
Q: How do you feel about the three year contract period... what happens at the end of the three years?
A: Well it may be very much like school based management. Have you heard much about that?
A: What goes around comes around. We had school based management about twelve years ago. It lasted about six months. Officially, it didn't die, but it died in effect. When the principals on some staffs began to be creative and there were signs that controlled from above wasn't really as great as, or as tight as they felt comfortable with, they began to nix everything that we had decided that we wanted to do. They were at times, subtle about it and at other times not at all subtle.
Q: When you were decentralized were you still in Area II, where the area superintendent is really your boss rather the county superintendent?
A: Yes, when we wrote our annual improvement plans, we better have what the school board had said were the priorities, now maybe my school did not need math as a priority but I'd better have something in it if the area and the central office say.
Q: So you're saying that in fact, you really weren't doing your own thing?
A: No, in fact when they said we could and that it was going to be school based management, we went into the areas where we knew we needed to work; but it may not have been a priority of the school board. Now it was alright, maybe, to have one such item but you better not have any more. It began to...ah, we wanted to use our monies differently. Well, no way were they going to allow that.
Q: So that took away the whole purpose.
A: It did, of course this superintendent, whether he's going to be able to pull it off.
Q: My roommate who works for a congressman who is on the education committee heard that Dr. Spillane may be leaving. I was anxious for September to see if Dr. Spillane was still here. I thought, "Here he is starting this big thing, how could he leave?"
A: He's a politician. You see he's gotten an awful lot of publicity and he is known throughout the country for this and those of us who worked with him on this board, not everybody, but some of them, especially the ones who had been in schools or were in schools, figure he wants to be superintendent of New York State Board of Education as his goal.
Q: If he wants to make a name for himself, I think he should stick it out.
A: He may.
Q: So if it really does, work, it really will be his creation, instead of getting it into effect and then leaving.
A: I think, um, I don't know what he is going to do. Nancy, you're saying that you had to write up your goals and everything, but, you don't have to be evaluated this year.
Q: Yes, formally.
A: Well, this system was necessary, when you are a new principal you had to evaluate everybody.
Q: To get to know them; was that the objective?
A: Yes, Then we used to do half the alphabet one year and the other half the next year, and it ... unless there was a reason, anyone could be evaluated each year at any time. That was when I was evaluating the (teachers for the ) hearing impaired and the regular teachers. Gosh, it was never ending thing. That is the reason I went to the other system. At times I didn't feel even could fairly evaluate.
Q: It would be hard.
A: I truthfully, didn't know anything about the hearing impaired program. It was rather difficult. I could never agree that a teacher was not a teacher, I mean just because they have a disability, I had had children who were blind in my other school in regular classrooms; I think until the teachers of the hearing-impaired began to realize this, the worst techniques...I thought if I saw one more calendar that I would "kill them". It's good, calendars for fours, fives, maybe first grade, but not fourth, fifth, and sixth, the same calendar. To me that just wasn't a good teaching technique. It took us a little while for them to agree that it wasn't required.
Q: I think that's why your implementation of putting the fourth grade hearing-impaired in the pods with the regular fourth grade was effective because it keeps that teacher really in perspective because they are seeing the normal kids every day.
A: Right. I think that good teaching techniques go for all. There are unique things that you all (teachers for the hearing-impaired) have to do that otherwise wouldn't be done, but, I just never saw that they were that different.
Q: What about teachers for the mentally impaired children?
A: Well, I'm very interested in that. I have a retarded brother.
Q: I have a mildly, mentally impaired student in my class this year who is also hearing-impaired and I would give anything to have had a class in that area. To give myself a broader scope in things to do that are appropriate.
A: Oh, I think that you do it at a different pace, more concretely, and your language is more succinct. But, one of the things that I do now is I am treasurer for a nonprofit housing development corporation. We've developed one and we are in the process of developing another home for young retarded adults. I find there isn't too much difference in dealing with them, of course I've dealt with my brother, he's older than I am. Attention span is short, some tend to forget, some have phenomenal memories. I think if (pause) I don't know how to put it; the thing I noticed in teaching the mentally retarded, when I had those in my school, was expectations were low, and therefore what they accomplished tended to be low. I think it is true of all children; if you have huge expectations for them, they tend to come up to it. Now they don't all reach it but they tend to do that. I, my brother lived at home, fifty-three years, never been to school, mother died, and he came to live with me. I was working and when I came home I wanted to put my feet up, have a cup of coffee and here was Walt, waiting for me to tell me that he had been to the store. I knew I had to do something with him. There was a state program which I found out he was too advanced for; we had him tested, the Wide Range Vocabulary, sixth grade level he could read. Got him into group home, he got married.
Q: He was reading sixth grade level; never having gone to school?
A: Never went to school. He's married. He's now retired from his sheltered workshop; living in an apartment, has supervision and so forth, but, he was never given a chance. I think that, don't give up on these kids; they can accomplish alot more. They do it at a slower rate, they do forget, they do have a short attention span, but, they're all so lovable usually. It's a crying shame that people do not recognize how much these people can do. If Walter had some of these advantages, he'd have been self-sufficient.
Q: Do you plan on getting literature out on these (sheltered workshop) programs? So it would be made knowledgeable to other people/other states?
A: We haven't done anything with other states. Other states do come to Virginia, Northern Virginia, it's not as advanced in other parts of Virginia. Fairfax County does do an awful lot. It doesn't do enough though; there are about 150 people on a waiting list for these homes. That is the reason we started with this private home, because the county group homes just can't even begin to take care of them.
Q: Did you have alot of grievances from teachers?
A: No. I only had one.
Q: One grievance.
A: Yes, that went to the superintendent.
Q: Did they go to you first?
A: Oh yeah, went to the area, then went to the superintendent. I gave her an N, a needed improvement.
Q: She grieved it?
Q: What happened in the outcome? Did they take action against you?
Q: Did you have to reevaluate her?
A: No. While they were having a meeting with the superintendent, Jack Burkholder, who later became superintendent, was director of personnel at the time, called me and said "Marvis, the superintendent wants to know if she has a satisfactory year next year, with another principal, if you would change her evaluation? I said "No", "I did not evaluate her on next year, I evaluated her on this year". He said "Well, I think you're wise", and that was the end of it.
Q: One grievance.
A: Yeah, I had a teacher come in with the school representative, I guess you still have school representatives, with a concern. And, ah, that never went any further. That was settled. No, I didn't have any grievances. I had a couple teachers who were there when I first went to Camelot who left and that was good for them and good for me, too.
Q: I was curious to your answer because in my class we have to do presentations on certain aspects of personnel administration and my chapter is on personnel security which includes grievances. I was wondering whether principals get lots of grievances and the other teachers are not aware of it or....
A: Oh, there is a grapevine, so you would probably know. Unfortunately, the girl who did grieve, was emotionally unstable at the time. She had screaming fits and so forth. Most of the time you can, they might not particularly like what has happened, but you can come to some kind of compromise. If they understand what the problem is from your point of view, and you understand it from their point of view, it can be resolved. Very seldom does it have to go beyond that.
Q: Did you find that your "uppers" were very supportive of the principals in your grievances?
A: The only one I had, yes. The two teachers who left, had gone to my area superintendent and he had me in at the end of the year. He opened his desk and he had written down everything they had said. "Did you do this?" and "Did you do that?" I said, "Do you really want me to answer? I can't really recall these things, this is so ridiculous". He said, "Well, no, I don't want you to answer, but maybe, if they're true, you need to ... ah, I should give you a "needs improvement". I said, "You just go right ahead". He knew he couldn't because he hadn't of evaluated me in April as he should have and this was June. When I did get an evaluation from him, the next year, it was an excellent evaluation. He had just kind of gone off the top of his head since I guess it was the end of the day and the end of the year and he was tired. But, no, I didn't have that kind of trouble with teachers, I don't think all teachers were crazy about me; I don't want you to think that I was THE most likeable person. Now, Connie has a warmer nature, probably. I'm just shaking my head because I know the regular ed. teachers always comment that every time they see Connie she always has something nice to say to me and I'm not even "her" teacher. Yes, yes. She has a lot of warmth. I've seen her though, when she was really uptight about things and this is bound to happen. They'd see me when I was uptight about things. She has a really great manner with children and with parents and with teachers. She's good.
Q: Did you find yourself "smooth" when you wanted to criticize teachers, when you wrote up their evaluations?
A: Well, you reworded it and reworded it and tried so hard not to say anything that would hurt, but that would get across the point. But in that kind of evaluation, ah, "Mrs. so and so believes that she needs to continue to work on it" see, we've already had our conference and she knows, this was accepted in conference and therefore, I'm not saying it, she's saying it.
Q: I know I really appreciate when I get evaluated by my principal, that when they are criticizing, that it is done in a nice way. It makes me feel that they at least thought about it and it is nice to know that principals really try to put things nicely rather than just having the attitude that "I'm the principal, and I can say what I wish...."
A: Oh, you'll never get very far if you do that. I think the ones who get the most offended are not the ones that you say things need improvement, that you don't say enough positive. There are teachers that you've observed, seen, you know them, you've worked with them, and they are not bad, but they're not good, they are just average, run of the mill and it is so hard to really brag, although you always find something. They feel that maybe somebody else.... or I should have given them something stronger, more positive. They may be right, I don't know. I found it rather difficult for maybe two teachers, where you just couldn't find enough good that would be honest, but I always started every, every single evaluation narrative with the positive, something that I said was good and I always ended with something that was good. I hated that job, I don't like evaluating other people; I don't like playing god.
Q: That is something I find myself thinking, with this new evaluation (for skillful teacher career levels), "Do I really want to do this"? Seeing all these principals with all this "skillful teacher" things they have to do. I guess when being a teacher to me isn't fun anymore, maybe being an administrator will look different, I'll look at it differently.
A: Well, I think if you are the kind of person that has to have some kind of a challenge, there will come a time when you've done it and you've done it and you have changed it and altered it and you've grown with it; but I always find that I reach the point where I have accomplished all I can and that is the reason why I quit. Not that I did everything that I wanted to do; Not that I was never satisfied that I had done the best, but I had done all that I could. And that's why. I mean I was there nine years and I could have gone to another school, but that would have meant a three year period of getting the new school to be my school and I wanted to do other things. So I thought "This is the time for me to retire, and say let's try some other worlds". I have never regretted it. I walked away from that and I have liked every job that I have ever had. I'm really glad that I am doing all of the things that I am doing now.
Q: Are you glad that you went into administration?
A: Yeah, because it was the challenge of it; I enjoyed doing it. There were things that were headaches and I despised; like custodial problems, ahh, I had some lulu's of custodial problems. Dealing with unhappy parents is not a happy kind of thing to do. Runnings of the self study, we used to write books, and the dealing with bus schedules were never the fun things to do. On the other hand, I had good relationships with the students, greeting them in the morning, having them down because they had some kind of problem, a few teachers didn't like it because they thought I should punish them and we never really got around to that), having them come in to show me some of their work, you know, that kind of thing, that was good. I really enjoyed being in the classroom. There were a couple of teachers who really knew how to play me. Oh, they were masters and I used to fall for it. They'd say "Oh, look who's here, Mrs. Wynn, we are working on fractions, wouldn't you like to help us?" Dumb me, I would get involved working with fractions, because I am a math nu. Math was one of my favorites.
Q: I bet the teachers like that, though.
A: Oh sure, and it got them off the hook too. Plus, the kids like it. I loved the planning for the opening of the school. It as a chance to start over. It was like every year, you know as a teacher, it's a rebirth every year. I used to go with enthusiasm. But I did feel that it was time for me to go some place else. The staff needed somebody else, the .... it needed to grow, and I had done just about all I could do there. I was not happy with everything, but still felt that this was the time to go. Now beside being treasurer of that corporation, I work in a gift shop as a volunteer and help buy for a gift shop that helps support the sheltered workshop. I am still active with the Business and Professional Women's Club, I, a friend and I do catering occasionally, and I have been to much of Europe and Egypt, Scotland this last spring, so there is a world opening, has opened up that I didn't have time for.
Q: Great. If you had some advice for me, going into administration, what would you tell me?
A: I would say "Go with your dreams, know it is going to be hard work, continue to laugh....." One of my secretaries was really great. They knew if things had been rough, they knew how to make it a fun place. We used to have some fun in that office.
Q: I like that. I learned from a student teaching experience I had that laughter was significant in schools because the class I spent time in had no laughter.
A: I remember when I was first going to substitute, and I went to a school to ask if I could observe since I had been out of teaching for awhile. I went into a classroom and it took me about 24 hours after leaving the classroom that I realized just how bad it was. I never saw such absolute calm and quiet in my life. I thought if this is what it is, I might as well quit now. I realized how those kids must have been exhausted, I was exhausted just sitting there watching. So, if there is no laughter, if you can't throw off things,... if there are times when problems seem to pile up, you just learn that you are doing the best you can. You will get some feedback that is good; and someone down the line may say that I am not doing everything, and there are days when you kind of feel that way, but on the whole, you feel "look what I have done with these kids today". I spent more time than I should have in meetings with the psychologist and sometimes with the parents, although not always dealing with the problems that the kids had. I had a great affinity for those kids; that was where I thought if I started over I would have been a psychologist. I could work with those kids. I loved it, even though tears, because some of them were such a sad thing, but, I had a psychologist who used to say she loved coming to this school. I said "why?" and she said "the smell of it". I said "what do you mean the "smell" of it?" and she said "as you walk in here, you know the kids are happy, there's a warmth, the youngsters are talking to you, there's a feeling that this is a good place to be". That is what it is all about. So I think if you decide that you want to do it, give it a go, I have no idea what to tell you, I never asked to do it, but it was a good life. It's good. I think you'd do well.
Q: I think I have a lot more years that I want to spend in the classroom.
A: Oh sure.
Q: I think about administration though. I started out at Trinity University in Texas, and the first class I took was way over my head. It was the superintendency course, and here I was a brand new teacher. It was the only course offered that term, so I took it. I ended up liking it because it put me in the right perspective and taught me where I was on the totem pole, and everyone in there got a kick out of the fact that I was so new and in this course. The next class I took was the supervision course which was much more in tune to my mode of thinking at that time.
A: I think the supervision classes were the ones I got the most out of. I really think that would be the job I couldn't take.
A: Yes, I would not want that.......
Q: At least there is some feedback from youngsters or from the teachers (as principal) but you have to be a politician and constantly on your toes. You can't let down and say "damn", you know. I'd like to conclude our interview by just asking you if there is something I have not asked you, or, if there is something you would like to add as a conclusion?
A: Well, I do have a question. I'd like to know what the purpose of this exercise is. I can't see any learning in it for you. For you to ask questions that were given, for me to give it back (on tape) and for you to type it. Frankly, my suspicion is that your instructor is doing research and you're doing the work. That may not be fair (of me to say) but that is what appears. Can you tell me anything that you are getting out of this?
Q: I have to say that before I started this interview, I wondered too, how this related to personnel administration and how, by me interviewing a retired principal, how does it teach me how to deal with personnel. But, I think that maybe I didn't learn how to deal with personnel through you, but I did learn a lot of good tips on being principal and how principals view teachers; I can look at how I relate with my principal from her point of view a little bit, and I have to say I learned about grievances. I really think if I sat back and reflected, I learned a lot from this interview, but I don't know if it directly relates to administration of personnel, as is the title of the course. I am really glad I got to do this, I think it was good.
A: That's true. I enjoyed it.
Q: Thank-you. I enjoyed it too.
| Back to "W" Interviews | Index of Interviews | Protocol | Home |