Monday, August 07, 2017

A Principal Who Inspires

Did your principal come from the Leadership Academy? Does she think she's God? Does she lock herself in the office and ignore the halls? Does she let her APs run rampant, doing pretty much any damn thing without consequence? Does she tread all over the contract, appointing her BFFs to plum positions and keeping them there forever? Is her mother the chancellor?

Okay, so here's a story about a person who became principal for all the right reasons. Amazingly, this guy was the janitor for 27 years, and yet another inspirational principal saw something in him. The principal pushed him to go back to school, and he became a teacher, and then principal. When you think about all the principals having nervous breakdowns over test scores, to the exclusion of all else, it's great to see a principal who actually looks at people, sees their potential, and encourages them to reach it. I mean, this principal is clearly a teacher at heart.

I've been teaching for over thirty years, and I've been observed many times by many people. I've received many pieces of paper. Some of them have been helpful, and others not. I once had an AP actually plagiarize an elaborate lesson plan I used rather than bother to write anything. I guess writing is a strain for some people. It's kind of remarkable such people choose to be school administrators. The most memorable feedback I ever got was from a principal who observed me, promised to write me up, and never did. He said, "Those kids love you." I don't really see how a written observation could have improved on that.

This notwithstanding, there is one person who has observed me more than anyone else, and that person happens to be a school custodian. Back when I was in the trailer, I was usually the last one there. He would be cleaning the adjacent trailer, and would walk in to pick up and drop off things. I saw a friendly native speaker of English willing to interact with my kids, and he was always ready. He was also great with the kids. I could absolutely see him as a leader.

Isn't that a great thought? How many so-called leaders have you met who inspired no one? In Spanish, being educated implies being able to deal well and treat people with courtesy. They have a saying, Tiene doctorado, pero ne es educado. He has a doctorate, but he isn't educated. It's clear to me that the opposite is also true. Some people without degrees are great with people. (And no, I'm not advocating we do away with certification and hope for the best, because that's just nuts.)

In fact, my kids loved this custodian, and his interactions with them gave them confidence. He got the kids to hear and intereact with another authentic and non-threatening voice, and he was happy to do so. I could easily see him as a school leader. All he'd need to do was go to school, like the guy in the story did.

In fact, there is one person in our school who went from a DC37 gig in the stockroom to being a social studies teacher. I've never seen him teach, but I know him to be smart, and to have a good heart. That's what I'd want if I were picking a teacher, but as a mere teacher, all I get to do is sit in on C-30 hearings for administrators.

If you're out in the halls, you can really see what's going on in a school building. Sadly, a lot of custodians see more about a lot of principals. But it's great to read a story about someone who set a tough goal for himself and reached it. I'd love to read more stories like this one.
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