This is July 29. . this is an interview of Dr. Glenn Schroder.
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Q: As an introduction, Dr. Schroder, would you share with us some of the administrative positions and background that you've dealt with?
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: Okay... I was a principal in Oregon for a, a full principal for two years. A teacher principal for, I think, four years and I was a principal with the Department of Defence overseas schools in Germany for six years, both elementary and junior high. When I was working on my Doctorate at the University of New Mexico I was for two years a project director with the South Western Cooperative Educational Laboratory in Alberque. Oh... this is not K-12 experience but, I've had administrative experience at the university level too, running external degree programs.
Q: Was being a principal in Oregon compared to the overseas position a night and day difference?
Q: Could you tell us something about those two schools?
A: The principalship in Oregon was in a small community, a lumbering town of about 4,900 inhabitants and the superintendent and all the other school people were all in basically in one location. And the paperwork was not much. Overseas, actually as principal, you were almost the same thing as superintendent because the first year as a principal in Germany I was a hundred and twenty miles from the superintendents office. The second two years I was in a little closer only about 90 miles. And the last principalship I think I was probably 45 miles away from the superintendents office. So the...with that kind of logistics the paperwork was, I'll just say tremendous you know that horrible.
Q: What... a why did you decide to become a principal?
A: Well, I think for a couple reasons. One, was I felt that I could have better control over my own time. As a principal I wasn't saddled to a specific kind of schedule. Secondly, I think I felt that I could have a larger impact on what went on in the school as a principal then I could as a teacher. I think those are two basic reasons I suspect.
Q: Can you share the events that lead you to taking on a principals position?
A: Yes, in fact, I was encouraged to do so by the superintendent and a principal. The first, well I think, the first time I even thought about it was when the principal of the school building in which I worked became, quote, the supervising principal of two buildings and I was appointed the, quote, teacher principal of the upper elementary school and I was given some release time to carry on that kind of duty. And I thought, gee whiz, someone seems to think I have some mocksy for the principalship. So I just continued on in that direction.
Q: What was that a Oregons schools philosophy on education when you entered into the school?
A: There really was, you know I was thinking when I read the question, there really wasn't any stated philosophy. I think that I felt that we outta have one and so I'm not sure exactly that I can recall what we came up with. It perhaps was like many philosophy statements. Rather broad. It mainly dealt with the idea that, this was before the Supreme Court decision, that kids were people. And our role was to help kids, to the best of our ability, learn as much as they could learn. That was pretty susake but that's what we came up with.
Q: How did you create a climate for this learning that you believed in?
A: How did we create a climate? By having all, a number of varied kinds of activities that we hoped would attract kids interest. We came up with a music program, an art program. We introduced a volunteer rather informal basis a little foreign language. We also created a well, I wouldn't want to call it performing arts, sort of an informal basis of what I would call a little theater production where the hands could ham it up to the enjoyment of all the rest of the kids. We also came up with a program at noon, at lunch time, where we would show films which were not necessarily educational films. They were also entertainment films. Hoping that that would get some stimulus to the reading programs. It would broaden their scope in terms of the kinds of things they might read rather then the plain old reading text. And that seemed to work rather well. But anyway that's sort of some of the things.
Q: This question isn't on here but I have interest in this. When you were teaching there did all these things that you could see to do better than the school bother you when you wanted to become a principal so that you....
A: Well, yea I think some of that because I felt the program, the elementary program, was rather sterile. And about the only thing we had going was we had a sports program which was a seventh and eighth graders. This was a K-8 school arrangement. We didn't have a junior high school or middle school. I thought it was rather sterile and that was the only thing that seemed to be available was a sports program for the boys. Nothing at all for the girls. And so I just felt like we outta liven things up a bit and we convinced the high school music teacher that she should spend some time with us in the elementary school in terms of instrumental and also we did have an elementary music teacher. That person worked only with the vocal types of things. But anyway, yea, that was part of it. I thought it was kinda sterile and I wanted to jazz it up a little.
Q: What leadership techniques did you use while creating this climate for learning?
A: Probably by starting some things myself. This was sort of flying by the seat of my pants, I just didn't know a lot about (phone)
Q: So we were discussing techniques ...
A: Yea, and really I think, as I looked at that question I tried to think back and I suspect most of the stuff I did was intuitive. I really hadn't gotten into a good solid program of administration yet. But I felt one way was in retrospect, looking back, what I really did was model. I was interested in German language. I was able to speak some and read more but I had one of those nice little record programs and so forth, and I ran up a whole bunch of stuff for the kids. All those who were interested weld get involved in that. And I also started that movie program. And then other teachers began to talk about some of these things and they began to get interested in doing some kinds of activities that weren't necessarily going on now. It just sort of evolved that way. I guess, when you try to analyze it was more by modeling and trying to bring people along as they saw the interest.
Q: Did you try maybe one or two techniques that didn't work out that you'd share with us?
A: Yea. One technique that I know that didn't work was demanding.
Q: Did this come from your military background?
A: Probably. 'You will do this' 'Oh' Well, it ordinarily didn't get done that way. I just found that that didn't seem to work well, not in that setting.
Q: I assume in a small town like that that your role as principal was fairly important in public and community...
A: Yes it was. Yes. One had to be very careful about the mores of the community. And the community beliefs about education and about what educators outta look like and what educators outta do and what not to do. The one thing that you discovered was that no educator should drink beer on the main street in any of the taverns.
Q: Now did you learn that the hard way?
A: No, I learned that the easy way. That if one wanted to socialize in abide one belonged to some organization, you know like the Elk's Club or the Eagles or whomever and through that process of going... I joined the Elk's Club and that was a way in which I could try to find out what people were thinking and what they were saying. I also had the opportunity to try to tell whom ever might be interested in what we were doing in school or trying to do. Yea that was a small town like that you need to really be in tune what the expectations are and try to follow those.
Q: What do you think teachers expect principals to be?
A: Oh boy.
Q: In 60 seconds or less.
A: Today I think it's different. But anyway, then I think what teachers expected of me in the middle to late 50's was that one thing that I would do was to keep an orderly school in terms of discipline. That, I think, was the major expectation. other expectations, I think, trying to reach back into my memory is that I would keep them informed of things that they needed to know organizationally. Other than that I think they wanted me to steer clear is about it. I think when I was in Germany, however, it was a little different because it was a whole different environment. Teachers had, I think, more expectations there that I would be somebody who would make sure that what supplies were authorized did in fact show up and that I would make sure to let them know I had distributed them as well as also discipline and perhaps trying, I think they also had an expectation that I might try and protect them from paperwork. But I don't think they had too much expectation that I would be a, quote, far ball instructional leader. Sort of show us our place, give us our stuff and let us do our job, seemed to be more of what they were expecting. I think.
Q: How did you evaluate these teachers?
A: With great difficulty.
Q: Do you know more about evaluation now then you did then.
A: Oh boy I tell ya. You bet, because our evaluation scheme was almost a blank sheet of paper with name and school and job title. The whole evaluation was narrative, everything was narrative. And if I knew then what I knew now I think I could have done a heck of a lot better job. Because I can recall writing some of those narratives in very general formats trying to make sure that I got, in that narrative, some of what I felt were really great things that person had done. As well as the things that person had done that I thought were over and above the call of duty and were necessary I would couch some things that maybe the person might think was negative, in kinda bland terms without saying "Here's this persons strengths, here's this persons weaknesses." I tried to wrap it alot together, saying, "Here's some great things that person did and here's some things that maybe weren't so great."
Q: Do you think new principals tend to reinforce the positive more or a little afraid to deal with the negative?
A: I think so. Yea I do. I think it's probably almost a universal ... Even fifty years ago and twenty years into the future, I think that will still happen.
Q: What techniques did you use to make teachers feel important?
A: I had... In fact, there's one that the teachers laid on me to make me feel important. I used to give out things like plaques with so and so did such and such and thereby made a contribution to the school. I'd write them, I'd just write them notes. I tried to give them public recognition also. "Here's such and such and she had, or he has been this." Other things that I did was, other things was, I would always, at least four times a year, I would host in my own quarters a bash of some kind just to say, "Hey, I appreciate you."
Q: Would that be scary to do that in today's climate?
A: It might, who knows, it might pop down too much punch or whatever.
Q: The next two questions seem related so I think I'll ask them together. The questions are: Philosophy of education and the Philosophy of teaching and if you wish to address those together or separately...
A: Well, yea I think they are intertwined. I believe that every person, regardless of weather he is a student or a teacher or whomever, every person can do something well. And we need to find out what that is and try to capitalize on it. I feel that everybody can learn something. I need to keep analyzing until I find out what this thing is that that person might be able to learn. Sure, I know that people, some people, will have difficulty learning certain things, other people quiz through them ... but what I'm trying to look at, both from a general Philosophy of education and a Philosophy of teaching, is that I believe that everybody is good at something. Let's see if we can figure out what that is, capitalize on it, and that I think everybody can learn. And so that means that I have to have programs to help people do that kind of thing. And when folks have difficulty let's get our, roll up our selves and lend a hand, you know to the extent of our resources. I mean some people you are not going to be able to bring up to, quote, max, even their own capabilities. But you sure try.
Q: So your philosophy of leadership would correspond to implementing programs to have the philosophy of education and teaching come about?
A: Yes sir.
Q: Okay. What does it take to be an effective principal?
A: Oh boy ... hard work, guts, creative financing. it just takes alot of, it seems to me, alot of effort toward getting the kinds of resources you think you need, inspiring people to do the best that they can. And that takes alot of energy and it also takes alot of time because it's hard to find resources, it's hard to inspire and so forth if you're sitting behind your desk in your office. You have to get out there with the troops.
Q: Do you feel like mistakes as a principal are more critical than say the mistakes of a manager in the private industry? Do you catch more flack...
A: Absolutely, yea. The mistakes you make are likely to be people kinds of mistakes and you're gonna catch it if you make a horrible blunder with a student you're gonna catch it from parents as well as your staff, perhaps. If you make a mistake with a teacher your gonna catch it from other teachers. I've never had a grievance but you could, if you make a horrible blunder with a teacher you're likely to have a grievance. Then you're in trouble with your own supervisors and so forth. So yea it's a... I think personally, although I have never been ... I have not been a manager, for example, in a private sector. I know you can make some horrible mistakes that may be very costly. But, I think alot of the mistakes you can make you don't ordinarily get flack from the public. Unless you crank out a whole bunch of TV sets, or something, that don't work. But you get more flack from the public...
Q: So if I asked you what the pressures, what were some of the pressures you felt as a principal? Parents? Paperwork? What are some of the others that come to your mind that were of highest pressure?
A: Yea. I think, basically parents, paperwork, and specially with the Department of Defense, of trying to help teachers understand the system in which they worked. I think, some of them couldn't believe what I was telling them. Like, "I have to do what?" I'd say, "Well look, if you want to buy gasoline in France you have to get a letter from me so you can buy coupons, or pay three bucks a gallon for gas if that's what you want to do." "Well, why would I have to have a letter from you?" I said, "That's the way the system works." But anyway, another ... overseas there was also some pressure from the base commander who thought that he ought to, in most cases, run the school. I'd say, "No, I run the school, you run the base. I do not report to you." We had a ... well I got along with most base commanders except one exception. That cost me alot of headaches. But I think the ... dealing with parents and trying keep on top of paperwork because that's quite a large ... how I was evaluated. "Did the paperwork get to the central office on time and was it accurate and complete?"
Q: If you had to do it again, do it again what would you do better to prepare yourself for being a principal?
A: I would have taken a heck of alot more courses that I teach. I think what I would, in particular, I would have appreciated having much better preparation in the area of evaluation, both personnel and program. I think I would have had ... that I would have appreciated alot more knowledge in the area of special ed because that was a time when people weren't too worried about it, about special ed. I think it would have helped try to understand what ... why some kids were having certain kinds of difficulties. I think that was one in particular. I think another, if I had all that to do over again, another piece of the action would be I would have wanted to be much more knowledgeable about leadership and what goes into that. And also in, more in working with groups of people in problem solving. A lot of that stuff I just had to kinda do intuitively.
Q: How did you handle teacher grievances? You mentioned you didn't have any so...
A: Didn't have any...
Q: Maybe you knew someone that had a grievance against them and you could support the way they handled it, share with us, or...
A: I've tried to step in and clean up in grievance one teacher had with another but that was ... We had no formal grievance procedures.
Q: That's probably why you didn't have a grievance.
A: Right. These two people were really at each others throats. And I just had to get in there and help them resolve that conflict. But, I never ...
Q: Did you ever fire a teacher?
Q: How was, what was that like?
A: Oh boy. That was a year long process. That was just a year long process and I put the teacher on notice that if we can't get some, hey if you can't help yourself out of this misery with all the resources that ... using the resources that we had available which weren't much. Like I said the only thing I could do is recommend that you be terminated...
Q: So this was personal problems interfering with teaching?
A: No. It was teaching, well, yea it was a little combination. The teacher wanted to teach music but she was assigned as a first grade teacher because she was certified as an elementary teacher. And she really didn't want to teach first grade. And I just said, "Look that's the way this system operates and you're qualified on paper. And that's your assignment." And that just kinda gave her a lot of fits. I tried everything that I could think of, I even brought an assistant superintendent up who was really good with Pedagogy to try to give her some help. But nothing took. I even took her class one day and got a sub for two days to have her work with what I considered to be a real master teacher at that same level. I might as well have just blown it off because nothing helped.
Q: I'm hearing you say that you thought you did everything possible to try to get her on track. Was she surprised when you finally let her go or you...
A: No. It didn't come as a surprise to her. She, she knew it was coming and just took it in stride.
Q: These next couple questions, dealing with civil rights issues and busing issues, I know Oregon probably didn't have too many of those problems. How about in the, when you were overseas?
A: No the only heat I took in the area of any kind of racial conflict was I hired a local teacher who was the wife of a Major and somebody came up to me in the Officers Club and said, I hate to use this trip on tape, "Why did you hire that Niger?" I said, "What Niger?" "Well Mrs. So and So." And I said, "I didn't know she was black." I said on top of that it wouldn't have made any difference. In fact I hired another one to finish out the year when a teacher was reassigned to another school. But no I didn't have any problem with busing . I didn't have any real civil rights kinds of problems. Cause at that time, yea in Oregon I had none. And at that time the military had been integrated by Truman. For, I think he integrated the military in 148. This was like twelve years later.
Q: You might have touched on this, but if I ask you the question on how you handled teacher discipline could you share additional light on that besides the one teacher you had to let go?
A: Yea, the...
Q: Military style...
A: Probably. Those two folks that weren't getting along very well I just finally said to both of them that, "Look if you can't act professional and can't treat each other civilly in the school building you and I are going to have to have further revitiation in this whole thing. Yea, I just sorta flat out told them. I said, "Hey, you've got knock this stuff off." But I didn't really have a heck of a lot of problems with teachers. They tended to know what they were doing and once they learned what the norms were I really didn't have any problems.
Q: Did you enjoy the areas of teacher recruitment and induction in the job?
A: The only piece of that action, let's see, in Oregon, I think, I only hired two teachers. We really didn't do much recruiting there. In Germany, the phone would ring and it would be the superintendent, of course the phone also like to cut through the string. The phone would ring and the superintendents office would say, "You can expect five teachers to arrive in a van or something. They should be there by 3 01 Clock." So it was only induction was what I was involved with and the system was good enough to, that I could put on a remaining ... some teacher that was coming back in the fall year. Put them on for a week so when all the new teachers were arriving this person would take over most of the orientation kind of process. Get them into quarters, get them ID cards, and all that mickey mouse stuff. The only induction that I really had to do, it was real quick too, was, "Here's the program, this is what we are all about. You have been assigned to do X." And try to get them oriented to what the program was and so forth. And usually got those folks reasonably clued in within about three weeks.
Q: Now this next word, I think will, I am more than anxious to hear your views on tenure?
Q: Cause I think you probably have some views on it.
A: Yea, I bounce back and forth on that. Currently, on this date anyway, well you know I've never worked with tenure. But at this state, currently, the first three years are probationary and you can not renew someone. And you don't have to tell them why. Which is kind of dirty but the minute you start telling them why then you can wind up with a real problem. The other thing, in this state, the proposal was to do away with tenure. But to change tenure to a due process system. Which means you have a property right the minute you sign a contract. I don't know which is the lesser of two evils.
Q: Do you feel the, how do you feel about the teacher that is lost enthusiasm and motivation?
A: Yea that, that's where I was going with this whole thing. Is that once tenure is achieved then due process does set in and for someone who gradually begins to, quote, go down hill or become lackadaisical or lost enthusiasm it takes probably a minimum of two years work of trying to either bring that person back up or have them check out. And through that, the thing that bothers me about that whole process is what is happening to the kids. That's what bothers me. Someone who has lost enthusiasm, is going down hill doesn't want to do anything but, you know, read chapter twelve and answer the questions in the back. over a two, two and a half year period, what is that person doing with kids. That really bothers me.
Q: Could you make a statement that you think tenure has a lot of valuable value to the teacher but you question its value from the students benefit?
A: Yes. Correct.
Q: What procedures should be used before a person is selected as a principal?
A: Oh wow. Selected as a principal?
A: I think the person ought to go through an assessment center. Have the strengths and weaknesses looked at. Have those spelled out very clearly. Given some direction about how, maybe, to clear up or beef up or shore up, whatever weaknesses. How can we capitalize on the strengths? I think the person, even if he didn't do that, the person, I think, ought to go through an extensive kind of interview process. Maybe given even some simulation. "How would you handle this?" "How would you handle that?" To try to find out weather or not that person, even though he or she maybe a crack jack, will that person fit into this school system as we currently have it conceived? Will that person fit into this community? I think parents outta be in on the interview process also.
Q: Have you had experience with a, what percentage of principals don't make it, for instance, you've dealt with people going to principalships...
A: Yea. Well, principals don't make it sometimes for lots of reasons and maybe not because of ability. Some of it maybe because of some of the things I was talking about. Don't fit into the community, don't fit into the school system. But, I suspect somewhere about ... oh maybe, it could be as high as maybe twenty percent.
Q: Did you have an assistant principal in either one of your schools?
A: I had someone in my last school that was assigned as assistant principal but was also a full time speech therapist.
Q: How did you use him as the assistant principal?
A: Tried to give him all the dirty jobs. Like scheduling parent/teacher conferences. I had the person take over when I left for meetings or whatever. The problem was this person really wasn't cut out the way I saw it, wasn't really cut out for the principalship. Probably caused me more work then help. I only had one assistant principal one year, that was it.
Q: When you were principal what was your biggest concern?
A: My biggest concern ... I think my biggest concern probably was the instructional program and is it helping kids learn as much as they possibly can. That was probably my biggest concern. Second large concern, especially in the last place, was facilities. We had rotten facilities. In fact they were scattered in five locations.
Q: Was that also your biggest headache?
A: Yes. Not only was it a concern because the facilities were kind of rotten but it was a headache because they were scattered all over the place. Which really kept me on the road.
Q: What do you think of career ladders for teachers?
A: You know I've thought about that, and thought about that, I've never had the opportunity to work with them but I think I like the idea because currently what we're doing is taking what we consider to be, I guess, really good teachers who want to come up with more compensation, have more responsibilities and so forth. What were doing now is jerking them out of the class rooms. I think I'd like to see something along the line where somebody can wind up being called, maybe a master teacher who does spend some time working with other teachers. But still is spending some time working with kids. Now why would you take a master teacher and jerk them clear out of the class room? But I would like to do that for part of the time so that they could work with other teachers.
Q: Now what do you think of merit pay?
A: Oh God what a pain in the tail that is. I like it but I can't think of a reasonable way to administer it. I believe in rewarding people who go above and beyond the call of duty. That is something that I believe in. How to do it in a fashion that will not tear up the faculty is ... that's the problem. That's the problem. How can you, the process that you can go through to make it something that people, all people see as positive. And all people try to get it. And when someone does get the rest of them don't suddenly have a jealousy fit.
Q: Is competition among teachers healthy?
A: I think competition among teachers, in terms of sharpening instructional skills to help kids learn, is healthy. If you're talking about competition in a way of, "I'm gonna go out and steal all of the resources," and those kinds of things, that I don't think is healthy. But I think, some competition in terms of developing instructional expertise, to me I think is healthy.
Q: What do you think about the standards of quality for the Colorado State school board, State of Colorado school board?
A: Standards of quality?
Q: Standards of quality.
A: For the board members?
Q: I would say more standards of quality about their program.
A: Gee whiz. Well, okay now the things that I go by are... okay they have standards of quality for preparation programs they have standards for accrediting schools. I think the state accreditation process that the state board of education has come up with is reasonable. I think it perhaps looks at, or has school districts look at certain things that I think are important. Like instructional programs and so on. But I'm not all sure, all that sure that there can't be some improvement in those because quite frankly there probably minimal.
Q: Is there any truth, I guess I don't know if there is or not, any truth to standards of quality being established on the East and West coast and moving to the Midwest. Or is the Midwest known for being pretty dang good?
A: Right now, right not I would say I can't speak for other states. The only state I can speak for is Colorado. And quite frankly I think Colorado is a general, the state of education in general in Colorado, I think, is pretty damn good. In fact we get visitors from other states who come here to find out, "What in the world is so good about you folks. How come this, that and the other thing?" They are really trying to take some clues from us.
Q: What would you name as maybe two of the most priority, descriptive phrases for effective schools? What's the most important?
A: Well, the first happens to be the principal. The principal makes that school. It's either gonna be good, bad, mediocre depending on the principal and his or her energy in trying to exert some leadership in that instructional program. However, a couple other characteristics or qualities as I see them is one, a clean and orderly environment. You can be the greatest instructional leader in the world but if that building is falling apart and kids are wrestling each other in the hall all day, that's not conductive to learning. I think something else that that principal has, is something I talked about in class, is high, realistic expectations for everybody in that building including the principal. And I also think another characteristic is that that schools program has support of the community. If the community isn't going to support it then I have a feeling that its not going to be as effective as it would if the community would lend it some support. once again right back to the principal. The principal is the one that has to show effort in getting the community involved.
Q: Can you think of what might be the toughest decision you ever made as a principal?
A: The toughest decision.
Q: And why was it difficult?
A: Well, I think it probably bounces between firing the teacher. That became more easy as the year went on. And telling parents, "No I'm not going to move your kid from that room to that room." I think those were the toughies. Real tough ones.
Q: Were you a manager of a building or more of an instructional leader?
A: Well, I'll tell you. I suspect that if I put my cards all on the table I probably spent more time in building management than I did in instructional leadership. Which now as I look back I think is unfortunate. But that's probably true. I don't want to say that I was flat out a building manager. I think I did provide some instructional leadership. But, yea I think that probably took more than its share, more than its fair share.
Q: What would you consider your key to success as a principal?
A: Well, you know I think really a good share of it was ability to get along with people. Both teachers, parents and community folks in general. I wasn't all that really outgoing and social butterfly. But I think my interactions with people were reasonably good. And I think that, if you can't get along with people you're gonna have real problems as a principal.
Q: What advice would you give a person who is considering an administrative position?
Q: And the next question is ...
A: That's kind of factitious. I don't want to discourage people from that because we need good folks in the principalship. And what advice would I give then in seeking the principalship?
Q: If a student came in here ...
A: Don't expect an eight hour day. If you're looking for an eight hour day that's not it. Don't expect an eight hour day. Another piece of advice, I think, is what I just got through saying, "Learn how to get along with people. Learn how to be tactful because you are in the people business. You're working with people all day long." And I think those two probably are two major pieces I'd give them right now.
Q: What aspect of your professional training best prepared you for your principalship?
A: I think that a couple things that I had in my masters degree program. The methods course I took in reading helped me immensely with, especially with the primary teachers. And a seminar that I had in a, it was an interdisciplinary seminar looking at administration from a whole bunch of viewpoints. From political science, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and economics was an opportunity to really think about what administration was all about and how all this stuff impacts the administrator. And how to look at it from different perspectives. I think those ... Other than that, other than that it was merely a matter of looking at other principals before I took the principalship. To try to figure out what they did that I thought was great and what they did that I thought stunk. And try not to fall into those stinking traps.
Q: What suggestions might you offer to universities that would better prepare candidates for principalship?
A: Major suggestion that I would offer is make sure that those folks get something solid in the area of problem solving. And that the internship program be as strong as possible. As well as try to do some reasonably good screening up front to make sure you're getting people into a program who can work with other people. Who have some demonstration of leadership, some demonstration of being able to contribute to the profession and so forth. Then they already have demonstrated a certain amount of mocksy now.
Q: Did you ever fell that central office policy, or in your case maybe a base commander or something, ever prevented you from accomplishing any goals that you wanted to obtain?
A: Yes. Because especially in the Department of Defense that school system had a very ridged curriculum, had a ridged set of regulations that we had to follow. But other then that, well those really got in the way. I can tell you that when I opened the new junior high school in conjunction with an elementary school, I got giged because I was not including passing time in the school schedule. i thought, "What?"
Q: Passing time between classes?
A: Yea, what is that?
Q: As a principal what consumed the majority of your time? Back then and do you still think that's fairly true of principalships now?
A: I guess what I would call mickey mouse stuff took an awful lot of time. And I tried to do most of that either before school or after school. But that really consumed a lot of time all the dumb things you had to do all the way from writing a monthly report to the fire marshall that we had a fire drill on so and so date to statistical reports on attendance and so forth that was very sensitive and had to be supposedly one hundred percent accurate. And sometimes you had to spend hours trying to find out where you made the mistake because books didn't balance on enrollment. But, yea a lot of the paperwork was really time consuming.
Q: What would you like to spend more time on?
A: Being in class rooms.
Q: That's a really enjoyable part of the principalship?
A: You bet it is. To get in those classrooms and don't sit down in the back of the room someplace. If the teacher has groups of kids working go sit down with a group and see what you can do. That's the fun part of it.
Q: What are your feelings about the principals responsibility for identifying and helping future school administrators?
A: Yea, that is an important aspect, I think, a lot of principals overlook. Try to provide opportunities where teachers, particularly, can learn and/or exert leadership. Try to give people some responsibility along with authority to do somethings. And thereby you can begin to look at folks who seem to have some abilities along those lines, as well as enthusiasm, and try to nurture those people.
Q: Do you think there's a parallel scenario to industry or business where some times you train the person working for you so well that he either takes your job or goes and starts his own business. Is there any fear in a principals mind of training...
A: You know I suspect that some of them do because there, you know for example Jefferson County or Denver or some places where folks are what I call place bound. They don't want to leave that district. And sure if you get some people all fired up for the principalship they might take your job. I hope not too many principals think that way but I'm sure there are some.
Q: What are some effective techniques that you've found to involve yourself in educational leadership?
A: In the principalship?
A: Well, I've always been an active person in educational organizations. Even after leaving the principalship I worked with the, in fact I spent sixteen years on the board of directors of the Elementary Principals of Colorado. What was the question again?
Q: It was trying to find out what were some of the techniques in involving yourself in educational leadership.
A: Okay. For the broad scope is being active in the professional organization. The other, maybe on a more local level was some techniques that I used especially overseas. Was to get the base commander to get involved...
Q: In something else besides your school?
A: Yea and also to get the guy into the school building when schools going on so that person can become familiar with how the facilities affect the program. And thereby helping that person better do his job. And if I can get that person on my side then I may be able to do more things in that school.
Q: Don't you also take the risk inviting him in a lot...
A: Sure you do. In fact the last base commander could have shot me when the General Ubusar, you know he's the big cheese of all the troops in Europe. When he's going through my facilities and I'm pointing out all the damn shortcomings. I said, you know, "This has got to cease. The kids are having a hell of a time trying to learn in here." The base commander is back there just turning beat red. He wanted to throttle me.
Q: Did you have a model person as you were a teacher coming into administration that you could follow who was effective in helping you?
A: Yes. A guy by the name of Tony Bryan was very helpful to me. He was a principal who, the last one I worked with before I took the principalship. And he taught me a lot. A lot of real good, solid things that I think ... He was a real educator. I really admired him.
Q: Would you agree with the statement that there has been slippage in the human relations training which goes into administration?
A: Human relations trained?
Q: No. Would you say there has been some slippage in the human relations training that goes into training of principals today compared to ten years ago, or twenty years ago?
A: Oh, maybe. As most pendulums go it sways from one extreme to another. There was an extreme when I felt that educational administration programs were all, I don't want to say touchy feelly, but were all geared toward having someone in the background in sociology and psychology and so on and so forth were the faculty and they had never administered anything in their life, except maybe their own, preferences to their own life. The had no practical experience. The other swing of that pendulum is that's all you can do is talk about nuts and bolts with administration. And I think that the happy medium is that there is, cause it is a people business. But I suspect that yes there has been some slippage in really helping people look at and try to give them some experiences in human relations. But, yea I would agree with that statement.
Q: If you could choose a couple of areas of United States education that you would change, what would they be?
A: If I could change a couple areas in education in this country what would they be? I haven't the foggiest notion. I think I like it the way it is where there is a certain amount of local control. I might look at maybe preparation programs for educators. In a little different light. I'm not all that sure ... see the movement now is one, I think, is a step backwards. The movement now is everybody, all elementary people as well as secondary, must have an Arts and Science Major and that pedagogy. Currently, in this state, pedagogy is limited to no more than twenty-five percent of ones program, including student teaching and other field experiences. That's like telling a doctor, people in medical school, twenty-five percent of your schooling will be in medicine. The other seventy-five percent will be in something else. And that bothers me. So in order to compensate for that maybe we outta think more about a fifty year program or something along that nature. If you need a solid academic background, okay, I'm not disparaging that. But then if the person has not the foggiest notion on how to deal with kids in the classroom. I don't care if you're Einstein, if you don't know how to deal with kids in the classroom you have, I think you have a hell of a problem. So that's one thing that bothers me.
Q: This creates a question in my mind. What percentage of the, of your ability to teach should occur before you get in the classroom? In other words, do you believe that it's alright that you're not the perfect teacher when you start teaching because ...
A: Oh, sure. I think so. We all start as rookies. And someone who has his or her head screwed on right will attempt to grow professionally. I guess what I'm thinking about is that I'd hate to throw Einstein into a classroom without ever having any idea about what that was all about. You want them to at least have enough skills to survive at least that first year. And then let that on the job training come along.
Q: Okay and the last one I'm going to create. What in your own experiences did you find most beneficial in helping you maintain sanity as a principal? Six O'Clock at night or ...
A: Getting away form the job, when it comes vacation time take it. The school is going to be there when you get back, unless it burns down. Get away and think about anything else but school. That helped me maintain sanity. Another way I tried to maintain sanity was, especially in Germany, was that I formed, lets see I moved three times in terms of the principalship, and each time I would call the nearest schools, within a reasonable distance like twenty, twenty-five miles. And get up some monthly meetings where all of us would go to somebodys school. Weld talk about problems and whatever and visit the school and have lunch. Just spend the day at somebody elses school then the next time weld go to a different one and so forth. Finally, you'd wind up as the host. That, I think, helped a lot because you did feel a lot of isolation. And I think part of that whole survival or sanity process is trying to develop a network so you can talk to people about problems. But, there also has to be a time when you're just gone and the last thing you want to even talk about is a kid or talk about school. You want to just get free and do something else. There are some people who just somehow can't do that and I really feel for them.
Q: Okay my last question is what educational phrase does the best job of pushing your button?
A: I think, I may have consciously blocked it out. The two that really get me right now is "Strategic Planning" and "Environmental Scanning." I just go crazy. I was going crazy over the phrase "You must recognize that each kid is different." That used to bother the hell out of me. It's so damn obvious why do you have to say it all the time. But, anyway, I think, we started talking about a new discovery ... Oh I'll tell you another one that really pushes my button, the new thing we call the "Whole Language Program." We called it something else back in the late forties and early fifties. Anyway those are a couple of things. I don't get too upset with educational jargon. I guess, as long as people are willing to speak with parents in English.
Q: One more question ... What was the biggest surprise to you as a principal? Something that you didn't expect and you had to adjust to?
A: The biggest, it shouldn't have been a surprise but it was. That you have to keep social business from your teaching staff.
Q: I thought you were going to say the community. that's something I worry about personally. Cause I like to have fun ...
A: Sure, you know I learned that the hard way too. Because I met my wife, she was teaching in the same school that I came to the first year in Germany. And we finally decided that gee whiz maybe we oughtta get married so here she is now, not a military wife but a civilian wife. And she eventually would make friends with the wives of any married teachers I had and we tended to do a lot together and you know I found out one day that I was going to have to speak to one of the guys very seriously because he was doing some things that I didn't think were necessary for kids. And you know I found that to be real tough. Because here's a good friend and now I've got to say, "Look, now I'm the boss and you're not and you're doing some things that I just don't think are appropriate." So that... I learned that one the hard way to try to keep a social distance. It doesn't mean you can't have fun with them. It just means how we used to have a, at least once a month if not more, we had what we called an ensign club and somebody would say, "Okay we're going to have an ensign club meeting. You come over to our place and we'll have a couple of snorts and then we're all going to go to a restaurant and we'll tell you just before we leave where we're going. And we had a hell of a good time. And you know a lot of the teachers and so forth ... but it doesn't mean you can't have that kind of report but mainly when you really develop a real friend relationship it may kill you. of course, in this setting here in the United States it's easier to do that, you can cultivate friends in other occupations, whatever. But I just want to warren you that the biggest surprise was trying to keep that social business. Because I didn't think you, somehow it hadn't occurred to me. And boy I'll tell you that was a bugger when I finally discovered it.
Q: Well, I think we'll take this opportunity to end the interview and thank Dr. Schroder for his time and his input and this is just a reminder that Carolyn and I do want an "All in the course and we thank you for taking the time to listen to this tape.
A: Okay. Thanks.
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