| Back to "W" Interviews | Index of Interviews | Protocol | Home |
Q: Would you begin by telling us about your family, background, childhood interests, giving us a little background.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: I'm the oldest of three boys, born in Charlottesville, Virginia. My family moved to Hampton at a very young age, went to school in Hampton Public School in Hampton, Hampton City, went away to school. My father was a graduate of Hampton University, my mother was a housewife. My father worked at NASA. When I was a kid, that's the old NASA, and we were very excited about that. My brother right under me is also in education and had a very successful tenure at Hampton City Schools as superintendent of Hampton City Schools for about four years and he has since retired. His wife is also in education, now retired. She was principal of an outstanding middle school in Hampton. My wife is also in education. She is presently an assistant principal in the Hampton City Schools. My younger brother is currently heading up transportation for the Hampton City Schools. So there are a lot of Washingtons in the Hampton City Schools, maybe too many.
Q: <laugh> So at a time it was kind of like a Washington District. Tell us a little about your college education and how you decided to enter the field of teaching.
A: I went through school with the idea of becoming a therapist. And I got a degree in physical education minus education because I knew teaching wasn't for me. Got out, graduated from school and went into the Army and upon being discharged from the Army I accepted a job in the recreation in Washington D.C.
A: It seems like it was a time to make a decision as to whether to go ahead and get that therapists degree or to go back to graduate school or to go back and get the degree in education. Needing work at that particular time I decided to go back to A&T and get my teaching certificate, which I did. And upon completion of the student teaching and all of that, I took a job in Lawrenceville, Virginia, and I stayed there for two years. During that time I went to Indiana and got my masters in education. Came back took a job in Hampton in physical education and the rest is history. I taught three our four years and then was asked to go into administration. I have advanced during those times I was advanced so fast in the field of education until I never thought about the therapy position anymore.
Q: I can see that. Tell me a little about how you got into administration. That's kind of interesting. You were saying earlier
A: I had accepted a position as head basketball coach and physical education teacher at Simms Junior High School. It was the year, and I can't site the year, the year the year when total integration was to take place in Hampton. Seemingly one of the principals at Thorpe Junior High School, which ultimately, alternately, I was going to be assistant principal there, had done something to displease his public, his publics, and he was asked to be removed. And the school was really in a chaotic state. The principal of my school asked me to go with him to be his assistant principal. I was the first third assistant principal in the Hampton City Schools. They had had two and now they had three. And I was the first third in there so I decided to go. And went there and stayed five or six years. The principal there, Harry Dyke, took a job at Kecoughtan. And I was asked to be the principal of Thorpe, which I refused at that time. I never really wanted to be principal, a principal. I had the degree in administration, like I said, which made you a master teacher during those days. The principalship was not glamorous. People wanted to be airplane pilots, cowboys do that kind of thing. The image of the principal was walking around the school in hush puppy shoes and glasses, and that type of thing, you know, but I guess I thought I could change that stereotype.
Q: Oh yeah.
A: Stayed there for six years, and was ultimately asked to go Simms, Junior High, as building principal.
Q: How big a school was Thorpe, and Simms?
A: I would imagine Thorpe would have been pretty close to a thousand and Simms the largest Middle School now and the largest Junior High School then, I'm sure, pretty close to two thousand.
A: 7th, 8th, and 9th graders.
Q: That's a pretty good size Junior High School.
A: Yeah, yeah, pretty good size.
Q: A lot of little kids running around. I can only imagineyou said a lot of chaos going on then. What particular challenges, kind of, did you see? You said chaos.
A: That's a book. I should have taken notes.
Q: Oh really?
A: This was the first year that blacks and whites had been totally integrated or desegregated, whichever word you want to use. You had the normal things. You had the fights, you had the parents who didn't want a black assistant principal. You had the parents that didn't want a white assistant principal. You had it run the gambit. I was trying to think of some instances. It was in a section of Hampton where the mayor's daughter was there. And then, you had the lower income people that was there, which gave you problems with itself.
A: Thorpe never got back to where it was a settled smooth running school. It was always some upkeep there, something that was not running smooth. But the biggest problem, with most of us there having to deal with two types of kids. Wherein we grew up dealing with one type of kid,if you can understand what I'm saying there.
A: But as I look back over, it really was an experience I wouldn't want to do again, but I'm thankful for it.
Q: I understand.
A: And when you turn this off I can tell you about some things that happened.
Q: <laugh> That's Okay, well, we could probably share some stories. I taught at Kennedy.
A: Okay, then you've had some similar type situation.
Q: I could tell some stories.
A: When I went there, workers from central administration were patrolling the halls. There was police in the hall.
A: Just like I said, the principal had been fired. The public demanded that the principal be relieved. And of course, not everyone thought he should be relieved.
Q: Um, yeah.
A: You know, and those people had their comments too.
A: But that's how I got into administration.
Q: That's a pretty interesting start, like jumping into the fire. What is your philosophy of education and how did it kind of change over the years.
A: Yeah it changed.
Q: Did you have one and it changed.
A: Well when I first went into administration of course, I was primarily a disciplinarian. I was just trying to keep the building floating for day in and day out. As I grew in it, I began to realize that the children are not there for us, but we are there for the children.
A: And I think before I left, I was more interested in solving problems and helping students with their problems to become better adults rather than just attacking a problem so it wouldn't be in my way at that particular time.
A: And I don't with everybody but that's the big change I see in me. I really believe that children come first.
A: And I really think that's the secret to education.
Q: A lot of people miss that.
A: A lot of people miss that.
Q: I see that.
A: Unless you get so old. Age does a lot for you. You get so old until it's kind of thrown into your face. I see things that I would like to change. There's an old adage. When I was a teacher, I was the best principal in the world, and when I got to be a principal, I was the best teacher in the world. But I really think the big change in me was that I really believe in the possibilities of the children. And we need to bring all of our energies together to help them succeed at whatever was it is they think they can do.
Q: That's great. If you look back on your principalship, what are some things you tried to do to promote that with your teachers? What techniques?
A: You've got different stages in my career as I look back over it. Just like I said when I went into education I saw a lot of people around me that had been reared in a certain way and just could not handle the changes that were taking place then. I see the same thing happening now.
Q: Uh huh.
A: I can remember as a young principal, we used look at those people that were so brittle they would not allow themselves to change and they began to break. It's the same thing there if you don't get a new philosophy. We are responsible for children learning to a great extent. And I can remember people last year that were resistant to that. And just like any revolution that comes, you've got to make some changes you've got to be flexible Because if you don't, you will break, and you hurt yourself, and you hurt people around you.
Q: It's easier to think of specific people at least from my point of view. It says right here, a great deal of attention has been given to the topic of personal leadership in recent years. Describe your approach to leadership. And describe some techniques. Which worked for you?
A: Well I don't know whether they worked for me or not. You'd have to look at the building's scores. I think the conception of leadership has changed so much even in my career, which is long to me, but is comparatively short. I think one of the things that I realized as far as leadership was concerned, was that leadership is a team thing, and you don't always have to be out front to be a leader. Some of our greatest leaders were never out front. One of the things I learned, is that it's the leader's responsibility to instill motivation in people, to get them to want to do. A lot of times, and I guess maybe I thought this when I first came in, I could tell people what to do, and I expected them to do it. Once I left, I was more coercing people to do certain things. And of course, I always had a, I think, the purpose of having a philosophy is that you know when to give up. When you have a strong philosophy, you don't have to compromise, or you know how much you can compromise. And when you hit that point, you say no more. If you don't have a strong philosophy, you give the house away. I mean, you don't know where to make that stop.
A: And I think, certainly you have to be the leader, and you have to let the people know what to expect. But you have to work with people and you have to instill in them, as I said before, the motivation to want to be with kids, and want to do what you think is necessary for them to do. As far as techniques are concerned, I don't know. One of the things that I did, if this is a technique, I worked very closely with my administrators. Ever since I have been principal, we have constantly met on regular basis, when it was necessary. And we also had a day where we met. One of the things that I would do was to get them to tell me what's going on in parts of the school that I might have missed. Because they know what's going on out there. For the most part, I have accepted what my assistant principals bring to me because I've had the pleasure of working with such great assistant principals. But the big thing that that establishes is a philosophy. And just sitting in these meetings, and talking, and a lot of times, the meeting would leave the formal aspects of a meeting, and we would just sit around and talk. But this helps us to come together as to how each of us thinks, and it helps my assistant principals to handle their problems in a way that they thought that I would want the problem handled. Because they get to know me as a person, and so that has worked for me. Because I have assistant principals who come to me and say Clayton, you know, I think this problem should have been handled this way, but knowing you, I'm going to handle the problem this way. And it's awfully easy, it's much easier for me, to support an assistant principal, to support anybody, when I believe in what they did.
It's gets very difficult to support a person, when I don't believe in what they did, be it right or wrong.
Q: Right, yeah.
A: And that's a technique that I always use. And I always met with my department chairmen on a regular basis, with the same philosophy in mind. Because they are the ones that work close to the teachers, they know what the teachers are going to do. And I believe one of the big problems in any school, well, in any organization, is a lack of communication. So one of the things that I try do is communicate as much as I possibly could.
A: Most of my schools had a Monday morning bulletin. We had announcements over the PA system. I met on a regular basis with my staff. I had a quasi-open door policy, because I do believe, and I believe even more in my later years that there comes a time when that door has to be closed, and you have to do work.
A: I don't believe in people just walking in and out of the principal's office. Like I may have believed when I first got started.
Q: I guess, I understand, if I can say this right, it sounds to me like the communication you do, basically, you're transferring your philosophy just by staying in touch, and they are beginning to adopt.
A: That's it, that's it. I think it's a coming together so that we all can be working toward the same end
Q: Good deal. Just you kind of hit on it a little bit, you said, a couple things there, the expectations from your assistant principals, from your teachers, from parents, from the central office. How do you balance all of that?
A: Difficult. And I don't know if I ever did. When you meet with the superintendent, or whoever you meet with, certainly he gives you some guidelines, and you have to look at these guidelines. And try to bring your school in focus with the guidelines. Because, you have to remember that you are just one part of the pie in that particular district. And you have to support the policies of central administration. It doesn't matter whether you agree with them or not, you have to support those policies. And I think that's your job as a building principal, to support the central administration.
A: So what I tried to do, when I would go to meetings, I would try to bring my agendas back to my assistant principals, and a lot of times to my department chairmen. And we would discuss those agendas along with my agendas that I wrote for the meeting. And by the way, I always try to have an agenda for the meeting. And I also think that the more my subordinates know, the better able they are to make decisions. So I tried to keep them abreast, slash, through communication, as to what's going on, because I don't want them to stay in the dark. Because when they make a decision, I want them to look into themselves and have as much information to help them make as good a decision as they possibly can, whatever the situation is. Can I ask you a question?
Q: Yeah, 'cause um, yeah, you balanced it out real well. Communication sounds to me like it's real important all the way down the line.
A: I think communication is the fiber that must run through all relationships. I can't see how you can have any relationship, be it marriage, be it a family, be it a building principal.
Q: Got ya.
A: And sometimes it takes effort more on one person's part than another. I just think that communication, and I'm not always talking about just talking, I mean truly communicating, which is not as easy as it might sound sometimes.
Q: Just to digress a minute. We had a professor in school law, and he taught us three things. He said I want you to remember three things from this class: communication, communication, communication.
A: I think I'd like that guy. But you see, and when I talk about communication, I'm not always talking about verbal communication. You see, listening is such a tremendous art that we don't practice. Your body language. How many times have I been in the cafeteria and a teacher comes up to me and I fold my arms as if to say just take this away from me? All of that is in communication. So, you must know I'm not talking about communication as far as verbally spitting stuff out.
A: I mean listening, and being able to perceive, the tenor, the Friday the 13th situation, in your situation last week. See, all of this is communication I think, and I think that is very difficult, or hard, and lot of people I'm sure are doing real well.
Q: Yeah, it is, I know exactly what you're saying.
A: You're right, you started something. And one good thing about being a principal is other people let you finish their sentences, so I won't do that for you too.
Q: That's great.
A: I forgot what I was going to say, you said something and it provoked a thought, maybe I can come back to it later.
Q: We probably will come back. You mentioned earlier test scores. What do you feel like the demand on you as a principal as in regard to instructional performance or being an instructional leader or?
A: You know, when I was in graduate school, they would always say that the principal is the instructional leader. Those of us that pound the beats in the halls know that we are good instructional leaders if we are keeping order in the building. I think things are changing now. Teachers have a body of knowledge that they have to teach, and that the students are going to be evaluated. And I think it's coming, they are going to be evaluated as to how they get that information over to their students. I think this throws a big burden on the principal. The principal's role is coming back now to be one of the most important. He was a smaller player a few years ago. Now the principal, he or she is becoming a big player in the school. If no more than a handful of responsibilities when these other things are not met. The principal is going to have to get into those classrooms, he's going to have to know the curriculum. He's going to have to be able to go into those classrooms recognize good teaching. And he's going to have to be very apt at getting help, slash, terminating those people that are not doing their job. If no more than his job is going to rest on them doing their job. A few years ago, see, it didn't matter, Mr. X flunked 90% of the kids. In many cases they got a good reputation. Now, the kids are going to have to pass. And not only are they going to have to pass, but they're going to have to learn. One of the big things that I see (when I wake up every morning, and I thank God for letting me see another day. And I also thank Him for letting me retire) is when a kid gets a good grade out of class, and flunk an SOL. See, I'm interested in seeing how that problem is going to be handled. But what I'm saying is you are young, and you are growing up in it. You see, I grew up in a different style of administration. You know, so what I have to do is to work harder to become the type of administrator that you are growing into now. If you can understand what I'm saying?
Q: Yeah, it's like SOLs, I was on SOL committees. So now being evaluated by SOLs, etc. I have an idea of where they're coming from and what some of the guidelines are.
A: And you know, it depends on how fast you pick up, it's a lot of variables there you know. But that's what I was doing, I was taking work home and reading those SOLs. We have a plan that we have to work on and it just made the timing that much more appealing.
Q: Here's a question for you that brings about You know, education has all these trends and it seems like there was a trend this year, a trend last year. And you have, you went from Junior High to Middle School. You went from regular six block schedule, or, six period schedule to a block schedule, there's high schools that work, there's so many things that go on. What do you think about the contributions of the success of these trends?
A: Well first, let me tell you this, I enjoy those trends, I enjoyed those trends. At Gloucester, you have the extended home room, am I right?
A: At Phoebus, we had a period in the day where we sent kids back to class and they could go and get help. Big fight in the faculty, getting that over, but I thoroughly enjoyed that fight. I enjoyed taking my faculty through block scheduling, you know. I enjoyed High Schools that worked. You know, whatever they did, I don't know. So I guess I'm a little prejudice, I like the new things, however, I have, we have, not hit on anything that really made that noticeable difference.
Q: That was kind of my question.
A: You know, but in the sense of test scores. Now maybe it might have made kids a little more motivated, or this. I don't know how to evaluate that, which leads me to say right now is that the evaluation of those programs, I have found, are not always such that we can really tell how good they are really doing. How about computers? Who has said that computers really are helping kids learn? You know, I feel like they are, but I have not read any studies to lead me to believe that they are increasing work in the work place, or they are raising test scores considerably.
Q: Do you feel like sometimes trends come so fast that teachers become so involved with trying to keep up with the trends that they are unable to keep up with their teaching philosophy?
A: I think teachers, and people in education are looking for what seems to be that elusive "gold ring" that's going to solve all the problems. And if you would let me interject something personal
A: I still think education and learning is studying-repetition. And teaching people how to think. I don't know, and I have not been introduced to a program that was so encompassing that kids just learn. I mean, I have found kids to learn through hard work, you know, and good teaching, things that Aristotle did. I don't know if he had High Schools that Work, or computers, but I'm sure his students learned. And I still basically remember in my house, where my brother would sit on one side of the table, and I would sit on the other side of the table, and we'd have to study. You know?
Q: That interesting, here's a question, have you seen a change in support in families over time?
A: Oh definitely. I have seen in the support in families. I have seen, I think, single parents, even though I think that there are some very very good single parents. I think that all of these things play a part in the low test scores. Kids have so many more exciting things to do. How can a World History teacher compete with the History channel on television?
A: You know? There are a lot of odds, but I also believe the answers are out there. And we just think that we have to keep working and keep working and keep working until we get the answers. Because I don't know if those of us in the schools can deal with the family situation, I think we're just going to have to accept that and do as much as we possibly can. We're not going to be able to change that so we have to take the kid while we have it. And I think we're just going to have to talk and to console and get those kids to learn as much as we possibly can. You know, and it's hard work. Teaching is hard work.
Q: It really is. Talking about, you mentioned something about evaluations earlier. And what are your views as to what the best ways are to evaluate teachers?
A: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I have never seen, and this is personal, I have never seen an evaluation that I thought fit my needs as a principal. I have always had an evaluative instrument, and most of the time it was meeting the requirements of central administration and getting those evaluations in and back down to central administration. Rather then going in and evaluating and being able to sit down with a teacher and saying this is how I think you can approve. So, I'm not knowledgeable enough to talk about evaluations. I know an evaluation is important. And I know that they can be punitive. I think you know, we pay lip service to evaluations are to help people. But I don't know, if you feel like they, I have always been evaluated. And it's been very, very seldom where a person came into me and said you're doing this good, but I think you would do better if you do this. And, see everybody can improve, if you give a teacher, or an administrator a needed improvement, he or she will go bonkers. But we are going to have to change that line of thinking. And we're going to have to make the evaluation really what it's intended to do. And I don't know how to do that, I can't even guess, how to do that.
Q: You say it's always been kind of looked at as supposedly being helpful, but wondering how helpful, it really is more being a threat.
A: I think so, that's the way it's always come to me.
Q: But the way you kind of view your leadership style and communication. I can almost see how that might transcend some of that punitive recognition that goes with evaluation, because people would tend to trust somebody that communicates with them I would think.
A: You know, I would like to think, I think in theory, you're right. But I guess being a retired principal, there's certain things that I can't say. No matter how much you do that, teachers still seemingly have a certain distrust for administrators. They see the administrative team and the faculty as those and us, you know. Its pretty, its very, very hard for an administrative team to encompass the faculty, that the faculty really has trust in the administrative team. I think no matter how much the administrative team really wants them to still let in teachers. Now, maybe somebody else has seen it differently, you know. And that doesn't mean they disrespect the administration, but I just think the administration for one reason or another is not trusted as much as I would have liked to have seen them.
Q: That's interesting, how do you either break down or maintain those "we- they" boundaries with administration and teachers. In other words, some places I would say, it would be nice to meld it together and some places, well I still need some separation.
A: Yeah, I don't know, I don't know. I have always tried to be honest and fair, and there were people on my faculty that I had very good relationship. And there's always been some people on my faculty that I didn't have the greatest rapport with.
A: You know. And I don't know if that's human nature, or a flaw in my leadership style, or a flaw in their personality, you know. But one thing, it leads me to do, I am very, very, cautious at who I hire. I never hire a person until I have done as much interviewing and background check as I possibly can. And even at that I have some people that I think miss the boat as far as teaching is concerned. But I try to cover every hole, when I hire a teacher, or a janitor, anybody that comes in. Because that gives me the time to play. It's very, very hard in teaching to get rid of a person, no matter how bad that person is, you know. But I've talked about it in the classroom, certainly if you come to work drunk, it's easy. But for that person that thinks he or she is a good teacher, its very difficult, and stressful.
Q: When you hire somebody, what do you look for? If you're going to hire a teacher, what were some things, if you were interviewing somebody or searching their files, or both?
A: Well, my hiring procedure, and my system gave us pretty much a free hand in that. I would try to select a team of people to interview them, that would have an expertise in a certain field. Of course, I would be on every interview team and I would be looking at that person overall. But I would try to have somebody on that team that would certainly know curriculum, good teaching methods, and what we would do is devise questions to be asked, so we would ask the same questions. Not necessarily the question that I wanted, but the question that the group wanted. So that when we evaluate it after the interviewee has gone, we can assess it. If you ask different questions, you can't assess different people.
A: Then we would sit down and look at appearance, number one, how they answered questions, good English, how the person thinks, we would also do things like trying to ask the same questions more than one way.
A: Just like I might ask what do you think about corporal punishment? And of course, everyone knows that hey, corporal punishment is out. And we can't have corporal punishment. Which is a good answer. And then you might come back with a teacher is in a classroom, and the class is disruptive, and the teacher pulls the kid down in the seat, how would you react to that? Same question, now you got another answer that you have got to give. And when we sit down, and go through this, we look at those questions to find the consistency in the philosophy of that person, if you understand what I'm saying.
Q: Right, yeah, sure do.
A: And a lot of times, there are obvious questions that everybody knows the answer to. Will you hit a kid? No! No! No! No! No! You understand, you better say no.
Q: You better say no!
A: But then you have to come back with that question to get to and rework it in a certain way to help us get to know that person. And also appeal, you know, we hate to say it, but students don't particularly like teachers that are very different. You know what I mean? Goes back with hairstyles, you know. I couldn't say there's some on record, but I doubt if I would hire a teacher with a punk hairstyle, and different you know what I'm saying, you know?
A: But those are some of the things that we look for, organization. Because see, I believe organization is learning. And I said good English, eye contact, and what we try to do is to sit down and discuss these things here again, communication, so we so that we can be looking for that.
A: And the underlying body English, you know, all those things, when we go into an interview, we try to know exactly what we're looking for, and it's paid off for us.
Q: You said umm, maybe, would one of your legacies as an administrator be the people you left behind?
A: I'd like for it to be, I'd like for it to be. I feel good, I still have teachers calling me, asking me how things are going. And saying they miss me,
Q: Sure, yeah.
A: and that makes me feel good. And I just heard last week they want to put my picture in the building.
Q: Well that's great.
A: That's awfully nice, and I guess I could just say it's been a great experience for me, I have enjoyed it. Don't miss it, like I said, the problems that you come in contact with, but
Q: Don't miss Friday the 13th?
A: No, I don't miss the Friday the 13th, no uh uh.
Q: You've seen a lot of school as far as like different sizes. What do you think population, what do you think impacts the population?
A: Well I think population has a big impact, you certainly don't want a school that is so small that you can't offer your more difficult classes. And yet, you don't want a school so large that it's too impersonal. You can't get to know kids at least through eye contact, you know. I think my last school size was perfect, thirteen-fourteen hundred. And I think that was a pretty good size, we could offer singletons and doubletons. And didn't interfere, kids could schedule like they wanted to. I felt like I knew everybody in the school, at least by face.
Q: That's good.
A: You know, and I think that was a good size school. Now Gloucester, 2000, too many kids.
Q: That's a lot of kids isn't it?
A: Yeah, too many kids. When I left, I was seeing kids I had not recognized, I had not seen before.
Q: It 's still that way.
A: Yeah, okay, and you know, we were out there, I mean.
A: But I think 1500 for the High School now. You need that size to be able to offer real tough, more difficult subjects, enough of them. And the kids can take other things too.
Q: Here's a tough question.
A: All of them are tough.
Q: I'm gonna readyou're doing a great job though, I appreciate it really. Given the presence of an administrative complexity, if there were three areas of administration that you could change in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the educational administration, what would they be? Or even one area if anything you can think.
A: Read that to me again.
Q: Okay, given the complexity of administrative. I'm sorry. Given the presence of an administrative complexity, if there were three areas of administration that you could change in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the educational administration, what would they be?
A: Well, I think one would be I would give the principal energy pills, so he can keep up his endurance throughout the day. I think the principal must be knowledgeable. I think he should be able to understand the complexity of organization, and he must be very knowledgeable of the teaching, and learning situation. Just three off the top of my head. Sure there must be others, but I can't think of them right now.
Q: What would you recommend as ways to gain that knowledge. Is some of it innate, or is some of it?
A: Staying in school, well you know, yeah, I think it's not always innate as to how intelligent you are, you know. But I think that he or she should stay in school. Keep abreast with outside readings, talk to peers, visit other schools, and just try to stay as knowledgeable as he or she can possibly be.
Q: You talked about things that go on during the day, and you talked about keeping up with readings and stuff like this. What might be a normal day, figuring that there's going to be crisis during the day. No matter how big or small it might be. In other words, how would you setup like a daily schedule. Or would you have a specific Monday schedule or Tuesday schedule. You catch what I'm saying? I mean, like you know, there's going to be a certain part of your day that you can't control, because something's happening. But how would you surround that, or set aside portions within that?
A: Everyday I went to work, I had an outline as to the things that I wanted to accomplish. Knowing that there are certain things that are going to happen that I don't have control of. But I think that the principal needs to have an outline. If he demands that his teachers have a plan, I think he should have a plan. Then, if you don't have a plan, you don't have anything to deviate from. I think the principal must be a great user of time. And let me go back again, you see. These are one of the things that I think administrators are going to have to change. I think now, and this is just theoretically, that people should make appointments to see the building principal. I think the time when can just walk off the street and you are irate and you want to see the principal, I don't think, I think they should have an appointment. That person should have an appointment. I think principals need periods during the day when they can go in their office and shut their door and not be bothered. In other words, I think the principal needs to become more of an executive. But still there are certain things, and I don't know if we ever get to the point now, where parents, because it's a parents' school. That they are going to wait to make an appointment to see a principal. But I don't think that a principal will will keep going like he's going now-fly by night- hit this brush fire, and hit that brush fire, and hit that brush fire. One way he can eliminate that is becoming as proactive as he and his team, or her, her team can become. And they have got to sit down and say all these are potential problems, what can we do about it? And that will eliminate hopefully that problem, and he can do more as far as organizing his day, and coming down to the assistant principals and just talk. You know? But, and we haven't talked about this before. The principal must be a great user of time, you know? Because there's no time to waste there.
A: And then you've got to have the energy to do that. I don't know if I answered that question or not. I don't know if I know how to answer that question.
Q: No, really you did. And I tend to agree because, and I see a change in where even in our school, where people just used to drop in now, and we'll have to wait, we've got something else going on. And we'll come back, you know if they want to wait around, or make an appointment and come back.
A: One of the fallacies in the school system is that school principal's secretaries don't make any money. So they get a little girl right out of High School, who can type. And make her an administrative principal, administrative secretary. But you see, there is so much that that secretary can do to keep that principal free, you know. And I think you can only do that I if you can pay a person enough money to keep them there. Because if they are good, then we're in business, you know. And leave, and you're right there again. So I think the school secretaries, and the people in the office that come in contact with the parents, need to be well paid so we can do our job. And a lot of inservice, because that's where a lot of people come, and that's the first impression they make, you know. And I know from my situation, you know, I've had nice secretaries.
A: But I haven't had all that many competent secretaries.
Q: I understand. And there's, from my point of view, there's a definite difference when you do get a competent secretary.
A: Awe man, makes a world of difference, makes a world of difference. See, I've had secretaries, I could spell better than they spell. That's a bad situation.
Q: <laughing> That's a bad situation.
A: But, a good secretary will give the principal more free time.
A: Because she can help him organize his day. But the principalship is changing and I think the principal is going to be more of an executive.
Q: We talked about how like the day is kind of like crisis management, and brush fires, and you try to get that proactive state. What about handling stress as an administrator? Do you recommend anything, or do you see anything important to handling stress that goes on in the administration?
A: You know
Q: Or anything you do personally?
A: One of the big eliminators of stress for me, was being as knowledgeable as I possibly could be. When the stress source would really get to me was when I was in a situation I didn't know an answer to. Now you are in that situation all the time. A fight occurs, and you've got to figure out who threw the first blow, and all this sort of stuff. But then you begin to develop trends to help you deal with that, and you get better at it. I think that just becoming knowledgeable relieves stress. Also, I think what you do away from school as far as taking care of your body, exercising, your personal life, however you want to work that out. If you're smart, you'd make it as good as it possibly can be. And that's something that you can play a big part in. Because those stresses are going to happen when you have a job where everybody's your boss, you see. And the further down the totem pole you are, the many more bosses you have to have. But I think what you do away from the building as far as exercising and taking care of yourself is very, very important for an administrator. I think surrounding yourself with good people eliminates stress. And I think just becoming as knowledgeable whatever you, as knowledgeable as you can, whatever you job is. The problems that really upset me as I said before, are the problems that I don't have immediate solutions to. I don't know how that effects other people, but those are the problems I take home at night.
Q: Yeah. I imagine blood pressure going up pretty quickly.
A: The thing is, you don't know that it's effecting you, see. I have had five bypasses.
Q: Oh my gosh.
A: Now, I don't say it comes from work, there were other things that come, but I don't think work helped it
A: But you have got to take care of yourself. And I think exercise, eating right, reasonably healthy life away from home. There's no sense in having an unpleasant life at home, and an unpleasant life at work. And just becoming as knowledgeable as you possibly can, using your time wisely, you know. And being able to bring closure to things. We in education don't do that.
Q: That's true.
A: You need to bring closure to things, say this is the decision I made, let's go with it, let's go to something else. But when you get in there with that day to day grind. We could sit here and talk, but you've got to study those problems, and you've got to make sure you come up with the right answers. And a lot of times I think we give them too much attention. But I don't know what else to say about that.
Q: That's pretty good. You do anything like physical exercise regularly, or did youI know you
A: Not really, I thought that I was athletic and physical, but one time I used to try to get to the Y at 6:00 in the morning. But that was putting me at work later than I wanted to be. And then at the end of the day I was tired, I didn't feel like exercising. Now, I've got the time, I'm up every morning at 5:00 running.
A: Well, run-walk.
A: But I don't have any other stress now.
Q: <laughing> Works out great now?
A: That's right, that's right. It's time for me to lay down and go now. But, I do get out every morning. But you've got to look at what's important, and you are important, and you have got to take care of yourself. You've got to find time in the day, you've got to demand time for yourself, and don't tell me that you get a physical once a year, because I get two. Okay?
A: You've got to do as much as you can for yourself.
Q: Kind of from what I get you saying, a lot of principals, principalship, objectives are on the job training.
A: I think that's the best way, you bring certain things, you know. Just like a jazz musician. You know, you get the melody, Three Blind Mice, but you have to improvise.
Q: Right. That's a pretty good analogy. I like that, I'm going to use that. So would you recommend anything that colleges could do to prepare?
A: Yeah, I think colleges should help kids learn to, investigate situations. One of the things I plan to do that I never did was to get somebody in some police or something, just to give me the one, two, threes of investigation. Most of us have never been taught to investigate. How to handle discipline, you know. I think colleges should do great. I think colleges would do great to weed the people out that are not suitable for this type of work. And everybody's not suitable for this type of work. Yes, I think colleges could do a lot more. I think colleges, and I'm going from my background, could marvel better teaching. And I don't know if your instructors want to hear that or not. But they tell us that lecturing is not the best way. And I haven't been in school for a few years, but when I was there, that's all I got was lecturing.
A: You know, so they could model better teaching. And maybe they're doing that in the schools of education. But yeah, I think colleges could do a much better job in preparing people for school if no more than reading and writing.
Q: I guess you'll almost scare them out sometimes.
A: No matter what you're saying, you're dealing the most important thing that our country has to offer.
Q: Good point.
A: And you can't allow people to come in abuse it, it's not like a tube of lipstick where you can throw it away. Everybody, everything, everybody is important.
Q: Right. Well, I'm, I really appreciate this time. And you know, you've kind of ended where you began, where you were saying we're here for the kids, and the kids are important. And so, I'm just going to kind of wrap it up here. I'm just going to leave it open if you have any one last thing
A: I hope I haven't talked too much.
Q: Oh, you've done great, I've enjoyed it, it's been wonderful. It really has. All right sir, well, thank you much.
A: Sure thing, yeah.
| Back to "W" Interviews | Index of Interviews | Protocol | Home |