Interview with Rene McNally


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Q: How many years were you in education? How many of those years were you a teacher, and then a principal?

mcnally audio (Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)

A: 25 years as a teacher and 15 as a principal

Q: Could you describe your school?

A: It was an elementary school and the number of students ran from about 300 to 450. It was all on one floor when we started, and then they put an addition. It was several steps down at the far end of the building.

Q: Why did you decide to become a principal?

A: I don't really know. The vacancy came up; and I thought I would like it, so I applied and got it.

Q: What events led you to become a principal?

A: Well, I was teaching in a private school in the county, in Clarke County, and the pay was very poor. I asked for a raise and they wouldn't give it to me after four years being there, so Mr. Quarles offered me 900 more dollars to come to Winchester, and I knew the new building was going up, and so I went to Virginia Avenue and taught for one year, and while I was there I decided to apply to be principal at the new Quarles School.

Q: What was your school's philosophy?

A: Well, that's difficult to say. Is it my philosophy you want?

Q: Well, it says what was your school's philosophy and how was this philosophy developed. No, because the next question says what is your philosophy of education so, did your school have a philosophy?

A: No, not particularly, no.

Q: Then, what is your philosophy of education?

A: Well, I didn't have a particular philosophy, either except I just wanted to do the best by all the children that I could.

Q: What is your philosophy of teaching? Was that different than being in the field of principal?

A: Not really. I had the interest of the students in mind and I tried to accomplish the best I could by trying to keep an even keel between keeping the children happy, the parents happy, and the teachers happy.

Q: How did you create a climate for learning?

A: You mean when I was a teacher?

Q: As a principal.

A: Well, we tried to keep the classes small, and we had people come in to widen the teachers' knowledge of the various subjects, and because I've had a lot of experience myself, if a new teacher came in and wanted any particular subject demonstrated,,I would go in the classroom and do it unless it was a subject like the new math which came up while I was in that I didn't know anything about. We had somebody who did know about it come in and do it and teach.

Q: You worked very closely then with your new teachers?

A: Yes, decidedly.

Q: What leadership techniques did you use in developing this climate?

A: Well, that's a little hard to say. I just tried to keep in touch with what was going on in all the classrooms by observing and demonstrating when I could or if one of the teachers was particularly good at something. I had one almost new teacher who was an excellent teacher at handling forums and I would get substitutes and invite the other teachers to come in and watch that teacher demonstrate. She was excellent.

Q: What leadership techniques were successful and which ones were unsuccessful? Is there anything that you would say would be definitely unsuccessful that you tried?

A: There wasn't a technique that was unsuccessful. It was the fact that some of the teachers were much more willing to accept suggestions than others were. And it was when the teacher was not particularly really interested that I would say that I failed to put across what I was trying to do. Otherwise, I felt that it was pretty successful.

Q: What role did you play in public/community relations as a principal?

A: Oh, I can't really answer that. I didn't do anything much in the community much at the time I was teaching because I was married and raising two children and running a home at the same time so I didn't do anything much in the way of civic work. I got into that after I retired in the last 15 years, but I would always try to present the school in the very best light any time I was around anybody. I felt like I was pretty enthusiastic.

Q: Did you try to get newspaper coverage for things?

A: Oh, yes, and we took pictures of anything that was going on in the school, and had it published in the paper. And I kept scrapbooks with the assistance of my secretary. She did more of that than I did. We had very good records. We had about five or six scrapbooks. We cut the things out and we taped them on, and we had five or six books, and one of the teachers saw that they got in the archives of the Handley Library.

Q: hat would you say was your relationship with the parents? Was there a parent organization?

A: We had meetings with the parents, yes. We didn't have a parent teachers, association per se. It wasn't called that, but we meet with the parents often and some of them came in and we didn't have regular paid aides in those days, and some of them volunteered to come in and help in the classrooms.

Q: Did you feel that the fact that they volunteered and were there in the school helped? .

A: Yes, I did, they were very helpful.

Q: What do you think teachers expect principals to be?

A: Probably everything I wasn't. I think the new teachers really expect to get more help than some principals are willing to try to give them. I don't think you can expect the teacher to do what you want her .to do unless you do go in and demonstrate how it should be done, and I felt that that was very important and I was always willing to go in. Sometimes I would even take over a whole unit if the teacher didn't particularly care for that subject, like social studies. And I would work with the children each day as long as the project lasted.

Q: How did you evaluate your teachers?

A: Well at one time we had a form to fill out with various questions on it as to their different abilities and approaches to things, but it wasn't very successful. It caused a lot of hard feelings. It was almost like grading the teachers and they didn't like it at all. And so I usually depended upon observations and then calling the teachers in and chatting with them afterwards and pointing out where I thought they could improve and the things that I thought they had done well.

Q: But you did not have a numerical rating that you had to go by?

A: That one year we did, yes. It wasn't a bit successful.

Q: Did that come from above?

A: Yes

Q: And then after that one year did they do away with it?

A: They did away with it.

Q: In all the schools?

A: In all the schools. We only had to do it that one year. It's a very nebulous thing to put your finger on to grade somebody by the 10 system. It's awfully difficult.

Q: What techniques did you use to make teachers feel important?

A: Well, I tried to praise them when they did good work. That was the main thing. I tried not to compare them with each other, just each one on its own merits.

Q: What do you think it takes to be an effective principal?

A: Well, in the first place, I think you have to be very much interested. And in the second place I think -- What was the question again?

Q: What do you think it takes to be an effective principal?

A: Well, I think you have to know just exactly what you're trying to do and try to put it across to your teachers, and I also think that you need to be frank with them and try to handle them in a way that they will feel that they are really doing well in the places where they are.

Q: What pressures did you face as a principal?

A: Well, the main pressure, of course, was trying to keep a line between keeping the children happy and the teachers happy and the parents happy. And the hardest thing to do was to keep the relationship between the parents and the teachers when they would have some kind of a disagreement over something and then I'd have to meet with them and try to straighten it out. And I usually tried to make them wait overnight so that they'd both be cooled down before I tried to talk with them.

Q: There were no guidance counselors so you were the mediator, right?

A: I had to do the whole thing, yes. No, we didn't have any. I don't think they do in the grade schools even now.

Q: No, but I think they may be coming to that.

A: Well, I think it would be a good thing. Of course, it would just be one more person that you'd have to get into the pattern. It was difficult sometimes because you'd hear both sides of the story and it was like Judge Walthrup of the Peoples' Court. Each told a different version of what had gone on and it was very difficult sometimes, but I didn't have too many situations--I was just thinking of one in particular, but I didn't have too many situations like that.

Q: Were there many times where the teacher was wrong that you had to handle that situation?

A: Yes, occasionally. But as I said, I didn't have too many situations like that. Most of them got along well with the parents. But there were one or two times where it was--where I felt that the teacher was at fault. I was very lucky. I really had some excellent teachers during the 16 years that I was there. 15.

Q: And that makes a difference?

A: Oh, I should say. Of course, I had one or two teachers who were not strong teachers but were willing to try to do the things I would suggest to them.

Q: How did you handle these pressures that you faced as a principal? How did you personally handle those?

A: Well, I tried to be reasonable, and I tried to be fair. I tried to see both sides of the question, but it wasn't always easy because--and that was the reason why I usually made them wait until the next day because by the next day they simmered down to the point where neither one of them were as irate as they were when they came in with the problem to start with.

Q: Did you leave your problems at the school or when you came home, was your family involved in them?

A: Well, it was a little difficult because I was really very much interested in the job and my children were just two years apart and they--we lived out in the county and they'd get in a scrap in the back of the car while they were in high school, and then I'd have to pull off the side of the road. So I had a lot of that to handle so I was pretty much able to put--but when I was a teacher I took an awful lot of work home with me because I taught fifth grade most of the time, and there was a lot of correcting work to do on the papers, and I didn't have time.

Q: As a principal did you have many demands on your time after school? Or in the evening?

A: No, no, not really.

Q: There weren't a lot of meetings like we have to go to now?

A: No.

Q: We have a meeting almost every afternoon, it seems like. Where do you teach?

A: Daniel Morgan.

Q: How did you handle teacher grievances?

A: Well, that was hard. Especially during that year when I was rating them by numbers and there were three of them that I had to rate down for various reasons. And all I could do was call them in and talk to them and try to explain to them why. It wasn't easy.

Q: Did you ever have to fire a teacher?

A: No, I didn't do the hiring and firing. They did that upstairs. I did have one teacher who was really and truly--shouldn't have been in the classroom at all. And you know what I did in order to get her out without hurting her feelings? I went to her husband. I talked to him and I explained to him that I did not want to be responsible for firing her; and I suggested to him that he have her resign at the end of the year because she really wasn't very well; and she was such a nice person; and I felt like she was trying, but she just simply couldn't seem to do any better. And he was very cooperative. And so she resigned at the end of the year.

Q: How do you feel we can improve education?

A: Well, I just don't know how to put it, but I was asked to judge fifth grade papers--English composition papers--prose and poetry. And I was to pick out the best ones. And of course, fifth grade was my forte; and I was appalled at what has happened since I've left. I don't want to criticize the schools because I guess they are probably doing the best that they can. But in order--well, this is awfully hard to put--but whoever was teaching these children just simply wasn't giving them the standards to go by, and the paragraphs that they wrote went on and on and on and the punctuation was terrible. I really was appalled.

Q: So you feel we've lifted our requirements or our standards?

A: Well, I don't know what's caused it, but I really was awfully upset when I saw those papers because we worked so hard to keep the children limit the .material that they wrote and help them with beginning and ending sentences and sticking to the point and choosing a good title if they had a chance to choose it, and it simply hasn't been done. Of course, now I didn't have work from all the teachers. I had it from representatives from different schools; and I'll have to be frank with you, the work that came out of the Powhatan School was so superior that it wasn't even funny. I hate to say that, but it was the truth. And I did it for two years. They didn't ask me the next year. I guess they didn't like what I said.

Q: How did you handle the civil rights issue?

A: You mean how did I handle having the black children come to the school? Well, the first year they came, they came by choice. They kept the black school open for one more year, and those that wanted to come and get in that first year did. And--well, I called all the. children to the auditorium before they ever came and explained to them what was going to happen and that I expected them to make the black children feel as at home as they (the whites) did in the building. That it was their school just as much as it belonged to the white children. And we really had very few problems with the blacks against the whites. It was just as much as much a black child against a black child or a white child against a white child. After they came in it really went very smoothly, and I have to say that Mr. Quarles--the Superintendent--handled the thing in the high school in an excellent fashion, and we tried to do it the same way.

Q: Did you have an assistant principal?

A: No.

Q: As a principal what was your biggest concern?

A: To run a successful school where the children learned as much as they could and had a good outlook on life and were ready to feel good about themselves.

Q: What was your biggest headache?

A: I don't have a big headache. I would just say trying to keep an even keel between the children and the parents and the teachers.

Q: What do you think of career ladders for teachers?

A: Of what?

Q: Of career ladders for teachers?

A: I don't know what you mean by that. I've never heard it put that way. It's probably something I know, but I don't know what you're talking about.

Q: It's a system to move up with experience, with a rating, and having master teachers that can help the beginning teachers.

A: Well, I suppose it would be all right.

Q: In other words, I don't think you would just move up automatically with experience. It would be--

A: Well, where are you going to move up to? Are you talking about salary wise?

Q: Yes, and also in--I guess master teacher positions, department heads.

A: Well, you see, when I was there we didn't have any master teachers because we didn't have the open school concept. That came after I left. So I really can't speak intelligently about that.

Q: What do you think about merit pay?

A: Well, that's almost going to the same thing you do when you rate them.

Q: Right, and I understand that is what it would be based on.

A: Well, I think--I don't think it worked the one year we tried it. It wasn't called merit pay, but we did rate them and the ones that were rated superior teachers got more raise than the ones the teachers did not like it. Now, whether that meant that they should have been having it--that it might have sparked them to do better, I don't really know but I didn't feel it was successful. It just caused a lot of resentment. And I think they felt that way towards each other. The ones that--as I say--if somebody had a superior rating and they didn't--I'm really not in favor of it.

Q: When you were principal, had the State Department of Education issued standards of quality that you had to go by? We have to work under a standards of quality. Did you have to work under that?

A: No, they came once and rated the school, but we didn't have anything like that.

Q: What do you think of the testing programs, like the SAT's and SRA's and the tests that they give?

A: Well, of course, they gave them all the time while I was there. I think when you get a teacher that's been there a number of years they are a little bit apt to teach towards it. You know what I mean? In other words, they are so familiar with the thing that they're apt to teach towards it. In fact, I know that--I know that one teacher--one principal actually, told the teachers that square root was going to be on the test and so she taught it. So that her pupils--her school--got all those extra points because her top children knew how to do square root. The rest of us didn't do it, of course. So I'm afraid that teachers do tend towards teaching towards the test which I don't think is a good thing at all, really.

Q: This next one may be a little repetitive. What was the toughest decision you had to make as principal?

A: I guess it was to recommend that two teachers go. But, one was a first year teacher, and I felt that she should have been given a second chance, but she resigned which let me off the hook temporarily, but then she called me up in the summer and said she had changed her mind and she wanted to have another chance, and I just couldn't go back on what I had said because I had turned in her reputation--the record of what she had done, and I had said that I felt that she was wise to get out of teaching. And then for her--she didn't like it, either. She thought that she should have been given another chance. That was a decision that she really made herself. I didn't have to do it, but I guess the hardest decision was when I had to--felt like I had to go to the husband to get that teacher out because she really was--it was awfully hard on the children. She had no discipline whatever.

Q: What was your key to success as a principal?

A: I don't know. I don't know whether I was successful or not. I felt like I did the best I could to run a good school. But I tried to be frank with the teachers. And I did one thing that some of the teachers didn't approve of, and that was if there was something going wrong, I would try to handle it first by making a general statement and asking that it not be done any more before I pinpointed to her, the teacher that was doing it; and one of the teachers came to me and said she'd rather that instead of bringing it up at a meeting in general that I had come to her first. I was interested and I was enthusiastic, and I think that helped as much as anything. I was willing to go in and demonstrate' anything I knew how to do to help the teachers if they needed it. And they didn't hesitate to ask me.

Q: What advice would you give to a person who is considering an administrative position?

A: Well, I'll say what I said in the beginning before you turned the tape recorder on. You don't have the close contact with the children. You're, you seem to know the good ones, the intelligent and the high scoring students, and you get the problems with the ones that misbehave, and you miss out an awful lot on the middle ones that you hit when you've got them in the classroom. Now that's the down side of it. But, of course, on the other hand, you have more freedom and a little more money and a little more prestige when you're principal. So if you think you have the ability and are interested and anxious--but you've got to have lots of enthusiasm because there's always going to be problems.

Q: Would you enter administration on the principal level again if you had it to do over?

A: Not in this day and age, baby, no way. If I came back in another life, I wouldn't want to do anything but teach. There's never anything else I wanted to do. I did it all my life, and I loved it, but I think things are too difficult today. All the things I hear--I don't know it first hand cause I've never done any substituting or anything, but I wouldn't want to get into the school business at all in this day and age.

Q: What changes would you make in the organizational set up of administrative responsibilities?

A: None in particular. I think it's pretty fairly distributed.

Q: What suggestions would you offer to universities that would better prepare candidates?

A: You talking about to be a principal?

Q: Yes, someone in administration.

A: Well, of course, when I went to college, they didn't give any courses that would help you to get into administration at all. And, of course, when I first went into the classroom I was only 19, and I thought that somebody would--at the meeting before school started--I thought that the principal, I guess, would tell me just what I was supposed to do. I felt like I went into the classroom blind just depending on what I had done in the training school and didn't get any idea as to what I was supposed to do with a brand new class, and my discipline was terrible that first year. And I went to the principal, and I asked her. what I should do, and she said, "Well, I'll come and settle it, but it won't do any good. You've got to do it yourself." And I thought she was awful hard hearted but she was right. Of course, the minute she'd walked out, it would have been the same old thing again.

Q: So you didn't have any student teaching.

A: Oh, yes I did.

Q: Did you have student teaching?

A: Yes, oh yes. The training school at Madison College. But in the first place I wasn't put in the same grade so all the material was different. But I just had an idea that the school would have some kind of way of telling me just how I was supposed to get started. And I just felt so at sea. I think colleges need to teach more classes in methods more than they do--now that would be for a teacher. For a principal, all I would say from my experience was that they didn't have any classes at all then and that they could present to people who wanted to be principal what some of the pitfalls and some of the problems are so that they'd be ready to handle them.

Q: Did you feel that the central office policies or the policies set by the higher administration prevented you from accomplishing goals that you felt could otherwise have been---?

A: No, no way. No. Everybody was most cooperative.

Q: What consumed the majority of your time as principal?

A: Well, I guess really, observing the teachers and demonstrating in classrooms and meeting with teachers that were having problems and trying to help them with suggestions. Of course, there was also a certain amount of paper work, but I had two secretaries who were excellent.

Q: Is there anything that you would like to have spent more time on but responsibilities prevented you from doing that?

A: No.

Q: What are the characteristics of the superintendent which you found most effective for allowing you the most leeway in operating your own school?

A: Oh, he was very good. The first one was a dictator and the second one consulted with me. He had the same philosophy that I had. He tried to keep the teachers comfortable and happy and encouraging them to do .their best work.

Q: How often did you meet with the superintendent? Like once a week did you have a meeting with all the principals?

A: No, no.

Q: Did he come to your schools?

A: No, we'd meet at the school board office or his office because he had an office in the main building and we'd meet there, too. But you could go to him any time you had a problem. He was just great. His relationship with his principals was tops, I felt.

Q: When you had a meeting was it with all the principals in the area?

A: Just in the Winchester City Schools. People say,"Oh, you know so and so, she teaches in Frederick County."--but there was no communion really between the counties and the city at all. The principals all met with the superintendent whenever he called a meeting. He did it whenever he thought there was something that needed to come up--like changing boundaries which is a thing happening now, I understand--anything that he thought concerned all of us.

Q: If you could change any area of education in the United States of United States education, rather, or any areas, what would they be?

A: Well, I think they're still falling down teaching children to read. I think that's the most important thing of all. And diagnosing dyslexia early so that special help can be given to children like that. We didn't have too much of that 16 years ago.

Q: And you didn't have special people that helped them? You helped if they needed help?

A: I sure did. I had one little boy, and I'd take him in the office during reading because he just simply couldn't do it in his own room--his classroom level. And I would work with him; and I didn't realize what was wrong with him until later; and one day I'd think, oh boy, I really got this kid--he's learning his phonics and this is going to help him, and the next day he'd come in and--see the wrong side of his brain was taking over, and he was seeing saw for was; and then doing numbers he'd get all twisted up, too.

Q: We have so many specialty areas, now.

A: Yes, well, you see, well they didn't have that 16 years ago.

Q: What in your own experiences did you find most beneficial in helping you maintain a sane attitude toward being a principal?

A: Read that again.

Q: What in your own experiences did you find most beneficial in helping you maintain a sane attitude toward being a principal?

A: Well, I can't answer that. I don't really know.

Q: Is your retirement because of administrative burnout?

A: Yes, definitely. I retired one year early because I was having trouble with my back, and I didn't feel like I could give as much as I'd been giving; and I just didn't want to go out downhill, so I retired one year early.

Q: What do you feel is the ideal size of a school for best administrative instructional leadership?

A: Well, you don't want it too big. I really think that possibly if you have over 400 children you really should have an assistant principal. At times we have over 500.

Q: And you did not have an assistant principal?

A: No, we had no assistant principals at any of the elementary schools then. They had them at Handley, but they didn't have them at the elementary schools.

Q: What are some effective techniques or strategies in which you have used to have help you involve yourself in educational leadership? I think you mentioned that you demonstrated to your teachers.

A: Oh, definitely. Observing and demonstrating were the two main things that I felt helped teachers. Because when you observed, you would either give them a written criticism or you'd call them in and talk to them and tell them what you felt or whether you thought they were fast falling down; and I was always willing to go in and demonstrate.

Q: So you stayed in contact. You mentioned also that you taught units.

A: Yes, definitely. I had a principal when I was teaching and she definitely felt that it was much more important to teach concepts and principles than it was to teach facts. And so she liked the project method--especially in social studies.

Q: But as a principal, you would get into the classroom to help--you said you would take over.

A: Definitely, and I also--I would have the teacher come in ahead of time if she was going to work on a project and especially if it was on the grade level where I had taught myself. I was able to tell her how I would go about it if I were doing it.

Q: Do you feel that helped your relationship with the students that as the principal they were able to see to get to know you better when you went in to teach the classes?

A: I knew all the students by name. You can't mention the name of a student who went to Quarles School in those 16 years that I can't tell you whether they went there or not. And it wasn't easy because you see, they went to John Kerr for the first three grades unless they lived in our area. The ones that came in from our area, we would have for five years. But the ones who came from John Kerr would only be in our building for two years--4 and 5. And it wasn't as easy to get to know them as it was the ones that went all the way through. That was where the Virginia Avenue School had it over on Quarles because they had the same children start in the first grade and went all the way through and we didn't have that in the fourth and fifth grades.

Q: If you could use one or two word descriptions, how would you prioritize your activities for most effective leadership?

A: I can't answer that.

Q: Did you have a model that you patterned yourself after?

A: No, I didn't, but I'll tell you what I did do. I taught for one year at John Kerr, I taught for one year at Virginia Avenue, I taught for four years in a private school in the county (Clarke County) and I taught for 19 years at Handley. And I tried to pick out, when I was teaching in those different buildings, the things that the principals did that I felt were good. And I tried to incorporate that when I became a principal, myself.

Q: What were some of those things that you thought that they did that you thought were good?

A: Oh, well, they were specific things. It wasn't. anything general. For example, at Virginia Avenue the first day of school they had the first graders come a half an hour later than the other children, so they got them all into the classrooms before they started trying to do anything with the new ones that were coming in with their parents. And that was very helpful. Oh, there were a lot of little things, but they were all specifics. They were not general things. And I just tried to--there was a certain freedom in teaching in the private school that I tried to give to the teachers. And I tried to, you know, I'd get their opinions about things and things that they would like to see changed just like you're asking me how, I would ask them what they thought that they had done. If one teacher was having trouble, I would bring it up to the whole group to have them suggest what they had done to help the situation. Of course, it was always a little frustrating when you'd suggest something to them and they'd say, "I tried that, I tried that." And nothing you'd suggest--"I tried that that and none of it would work."

Q: Could you name the most pleasant principalship activity for you?

A: Well, I don't know. I think it was the friendship and companionship with the teachers, and we'd always eat in the lounge all together. And everybody--the atmosphere was just very friendly, and I really liked it. Of course, I've kept up my friendship. I play bridge with a lot of the same people that I taught with that were teachers when I was principal.

Q: Were they all women teachers at your school?

A: We had a man come in for physical ed a couple of times a week, and it was strange because, you know, we weren't used to having a man around in the building. But he was awfully nice. He was even so kind to me. I went out one morning--I lived in the country--and the driveway was covered with snow, and it had all been cleared out, and he'd come down early in the morning to clear it out for me. So I had a nice relationship with him.

Q: Did you have a hard time maintaining a principal/teacher relationship in the small school where everyone was close?
A: Not too. Not really. I didn't think that was one of the main problems.
Q: What was the most unpleasant activity?

A: Well, I guess when I had to call a teacher and tell her that she wasn't doing something that she should be doing. If she was willing to be helped and willing to take suggestions, it was alright; but sometimes they resented the fact that you would--I had two teachers in the building who had Masters and I only had a BS, and I always kind of felt like they resented it a little that they were teachers and I was a principal. There was a little bit of friction there for a while. But I think if you call a teacher in and really get ' down to brass tacks and both of you express your opinions and are perfectly frank with each other, I think you can iron out most things in most cases. I didn't really have any really unpleasant experiences at all while I was principal, I didn't think.

Q: Did you ever go in earlier in the morning? Real early?

A: Oh, yes. I liked to get things done. In fact, when I had the slipped disk, which I had the first year the new superintendent was there--which was very unfortunate--I went in about quarter of eight, and I was correcting a set of papers for a teacher. She had given them and had the lesson--or I had the lesson and was correcting the papers. I would always go early. My husband worked in the bank, and he liked to get to work early. I did a lot of things. I'd rather go early in the morning than stay late in the afternoon.
Q: So you didn't stay late very often?

A: No, not really. Not really, I didn't. I did more of it early in the morning than I did late in the afternoon. Unless I had to have a conference with teachers or something. I didn't do that first thing in the morning.

Q: Did parents call you at your home very often?

A: No. I really thought I had a very--l enjoyed the whole thing.

Q: Who did the teaching assignments? Who would teach where? Did you do that or the superintendent?

A: You mean in the grades they taught?

Q: Yes.

A: Because you just had one teacher--or a teacher would only teach one grade. Did you decide who would do that or did the--No, they usually came in with a recommendation as to where--in other words, there were certain vacancies and they--and so we hired somebody to do fifth grade, for example. Now, the very last couple of years I was there, we did try doing a little bit of departmentalized work, and one teacher would teach more reading and the other teachers--there were only two of them in the grade--might work with the first three grades. One of them would do the reading, and the other one the math, and they would switch the children around.

Q: Did you feel that that worked better?

A: Well, it was sort of the beginning of the open class concept. We went out to the middle west--two of the teachers. Two of the teachers and I drove out. They had a big meeting. It was sort of the beginning of the open school concept. And that was the way that we handled it rather than dive into it full fledged. We just did a little bit of that for the last couple of years, I would say.

Q: Did you attend other conferences throughout the--did you attend conferences very often?

A: Yes, we went to principals' conferences. We had those at the Hotel Roanoke. And they paid our way--the school board paid our way after Mr. Johnson came. We didn't do any before that.

Q: And how long were those conferences, 2 days?

A: Yes, or over the weekend. Maybe Friday or Saturday. Sometimes it was Monday and Tuesday. One time we all got stuck in the snow, and we had to call the superintendent up and tell him there would be no principals in the school that morning. But, that was the elementary principals. The middle school principal didn't go with us. I don't know, why but he didn't--just the elementary school principals.

Q: Did you have a lot of snow when you taught? Days when schools were closed?

A: No, not very much. We don't get a whole lot of snow here. We didn't have snow days in the calendar either, then--like they do now. We walked most of us to school so we didn't have the bussing to worry about.

Q: What do you mean? You lived close to the school?

A: No, there were not a lot of busses when we were in school.

Q: Oh, you were in school here.

A: Yes. Oh, no, we didn't have busses when I was there. There was no bussing except the city bus, and the children paid. The bussing came in after I left. So I didn't have to handle that.

Q: One thing, if there were any areas for administrators or any responsibilities that you could change, what would those areas be? Anything that you felt that you--that was your responsibility that shouldn't have been or that you should have felt the responsibility for that you didn't?

A: Well, I think I would probably like to have had a little more to do with hiring. The reason I say that is because when you've been a teacher for as many years as I had before I became a principal, you'd know what you were looking for in a teacher where a--somebody else who was doing it might not be quite as cognizant of what you really wanted in a teacher. And to hire a teacher that had been in the system before and had not been successful, and then to hire her back again to me was a stupid thing to do. And it was done on one occasion.

Q: How much paper work did you have? Like in our class, they are giving us some examples of being a principal, and we had to pretend like we have an in-basket with all these different memos, and we have to deal with them. Did you sit down during the day and work with paper work a lot?

A: Not a whole lot. No. We didn't have a lot of that. Of course, we had a lot of forms and things we had to fill out that you'd get from the superintendent; and you'd have to fill those out, but not memos exactly.

Q: Did you have a school nurse?

A: She came to the building. She wasn't there all the time. I don't think they have that now even, do they?

Q: Well, at John Kerr they have a school nurse that's there. I think there's a visiting nurse that goes between the elementary schools. She's in charge of one or two of them. Do you feel that we are better off now because of the specialization where they have the specially trained areas?

A: Well, I suppose so. I would imagine it was a little difficult to handle having the children out of the classroom to go to a specialist--to know what they should miss in order to go to the specialists, but I would think specialization, especially in reading, would be most helpful. But I don't think that problem has been really solved yet. I mean, I think there's still an awful lot of children going through that somehow don't get taught to read or one reason or another. And until that's corrected, I think you're still going to keep on having a lot of dropouts. Because you know if you can't accomplish something you get frustrated, and you have unhappy children, and then they have to get attention some way. So they can't get it by achieving, so they achieve the wrong things to get that attention. So it should be a good thing, I would think. I don't know how much specialization there actually is now. I know they have reading specialists. Do they have special teachers for the math, too?

Q: Math and even the LD teachers are divided into the math specialties and reading specialties, because a student could have problems with math and not reading, so they would go to the different teacher--be pulled out of the regular class.

A: Well, of course, we didn't have any special teachers then. We didn't have a special class in the building, either, for the children who were handicapped in any way.

Q: In listening to you, it seems to me that you had an ideal situation where you had the time to spend time with your teachers and to spend time in class. I think we're getting so bogged down with paper work now that the principal doesn't get out into the classrooms.

A: Well, I don't see how you could be a principal and not. How do you know what's going on if you don't get out and observe? And how do you help the teachers if you can't demonstrate? I think you have to have been a successful teacher first before you could even consider going into administration.

Q: Let's talk about discipline a little bit. When the teachers couldn't handle it, did they send the students to your office, and did you ever come in and there was a child sitting there that you had to take care of the discipline?

A: In one or two cases.

Q: Did you ever suspend them, little children like that?

A: No. But we did have one boy who had to--he got into so much trouble on the way to and from school--and he wasn't a dumb child, either. He was intelligent. But he just couldn't keep out of trouble coming and going, so and he couldn't adjust in the classroom, so I had him in the office part time, part of the time to relieve the teacher in the classroom. That was the exception. It was only one child I remember like that.

Q: When you disciplined a child like that, did you very often hear from parents? You know we have to be so careful now about that.

A: I know. Well, you didn't have that. That wasn't a real problem. Of course, the teacher--I felt that the teacher handled it herself in most cases. Of course, there were one or two who were very weak at it. The teacher handled the discipline mostly herself in the classroom because she knew the same thing that I was told--that if you don't handle it yourself, getting somebody else to come do it is not going to be the answer. But if they felt that a child had had enough chances and was still doing the same naughty things, why--and they'd send them to me, I would always give them one warning. And then, of course, after that I'd say, "Now if you get sent to me again for that kind of thing, I'll have to paddle you."

Q: So did you have to deal with irate parents very often?

A: Yes, once in a while.

Q: How did you handle them?

A: Well, I guess just to sit down and listen to all their complaints and try to soothe them. And one case I felt like I had to move the child into another room because something had happened in the classroom--the teacher had shaken a child in the second grade, the first day of school and scared this other child so much that she wouldn't come to school. We had a terrible time for weeks getting that child back in school. And so, though she didn't belong in there, I put her in the other class in the second grade. But the teacher just scared her to death. I guess she was afraid she was going to do the same thing to her.

Q: Now did you have to talk to that teacher?

A: Oh, yes. Of course, I had to talk to the teacher. But it was a long time before I found out exactly--the child didn't seem to want to tell her parents why she didn't want to go to school. And it didn't come out for quite a while.

Q: Did you paddle kids?

A: Yes. I had a funny experience with this one boy that was such a problem. He came in and he plunked himself down on the chair and just sat there and looked at me. And I said, "Well if you don't get up so I can paddle you where I'm supposed to, I'll just have to paddle you wherever I can." He sat there and just glared, so I took the paddle and hit him on his elbows, and his knees and his knuckles. Finally, he got up out of the chair bent himself over and stuck his rear out and said, "Alright, paddle me where you're supposed to." But you know, when he graduated from high school, he sent me an invitation. I didn't paddle very often. I didn't have to really very much. Oh, once in a while. I don't know that it does any good, but it gave the teacher a certain amount of satisfaction to think that her problem was being handled by somebody else.

Q: Did you paddle the students or did the teachers?

A: No, the teachers were not allowed to. Of course, it was really better for me to do it because I wasn't mad at the child and the teacher was. It was really better to administer discipline when you're not angry ,if you can.

Q: Is there anything that I have not asked you or that we've left out that you would like to discuss?

A: I think we've discussed most everything. I can't reiterate enough times that I really enjoyed the whole business. I really think I enjoyed being a classroom teacher more because of the close contact with the children which you do not get--you can't possibly have with 400 or 500 children. But, I just enjoyed the whole educational experience. I'd do the same thing over. And I had a very nice relationship, also, with the other principals.

Q: Were the other principals women, or most of them men?

A: Three of them were women, one was a man. Daniel Morgan had a man, but the other three had women. All had women, and now they got men in nearly all the positions. I won't comment on that.

Q: Well, if you had an opinion on that, you could.

A: Well, I do have an opinion on it.

Q: Would you be willing to--

A: I think before somebody goes into administration, they need to have experience in the classroom. And I was at a meeting in Roanoke one time, and two of us women principals--three of us--were sitting at the same table with seven men and they were laughing and joking about how they were using their principalship as a step to get up into the high school. And I thought, what kind of principals do you make--just waiting to get out of it and get farther along. So I really shouldn't say that though. But I don't think men principals in the elementary school, as a general rule, do as good a job because I don't think they're willing to go in and demonstrate to the children--to the teachers the way women do. I just don't think they do. Now Madison College had a training school up there, and they've got a man now who's a humdinger who's principal of the school. I mean he goes in and teaches and does everything. He's just great. But I think, as a general rule, women make better principals than men and better elementary teachers than men. Maybe I'm prejudiced. I don't know what they're going to delete out of this. I'm glad my name's not going on it.

Q: How hard was it for your family when they were growing up? When you were the principal, they were teenagers or were they little children, your two kids? Were they little when you were the principal or about what age?

A: When I was principal, they were 11 and 13.

Q: So they realized that you had responsibilities.

A: Oh, yes. No I didn't have any problem with that, really.

Q: Did they go to your school?

A: My son went there for one year which probably wasn't a very good idea. He was only there for one year so it didn't really make that much difference. But of course, I think all the working mothers have problems because--but, of course, it does help that you have about the same hours that the children have. And by going early in the morning and getting so much done first thing in the morning the first hour and a half or so, why I didn't feel like I had to stay late in the afternoon. I'd get the work done first thing in the morning.

Q: What about single-parent homes? You didn't have as many of those as you do today, or you did have a lot?

A: Oh, yes. There was a lot of that.

Q: Did you find that they caused problems in the school?

A: I wouldn't say more than anything else. We were really very lucky in the Quarles school, I think. We didn't have too much of that.

Q: Were you aware of the home life of most of your students? Were they (teachers) still visiting (the homes)?

A: Well, yes, yes, we did. Of course, being from a small town like this, and I've lived here since 1923, and so I knew so many of the parents socially as well as an educator. But one of the nicest things that ever happened to me happened several years after I retired. I got a letter from a teacher who had been there two years while I was there, and she said that she was a successful teacher, and that she felt that she owed it all to me because of the fact that she'd been in my school for her first two years. And that really did make me feel good. She said that she felt like I--she didn't use the word disciplined--but that I called her down when she wasn't doing the things that she should have been doing, and she felt that it was most helpful. And that really was a--made me feel awfully good. I don't think teachers really get praised enough for the good things they do. They're apt to be criticized an awful for the things that they do that--when parents are not satisfied, but they're not so apt to praise them when things go well.

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