Being a vice-principal has to be one of the least appealing jobs in education. Dealing with discipline problems on a daily basis is not what most people aspire to; indeed, the position is generally viewed as job training for the principalship, the ultimate goal of many. One of the most effective vice-principals I ever worked for was a man named Ray who, for whatever reason, seemed uninterested in moving to the next administrative level. I suspect that was why he was such a good v.p.
Unfortunately, in my experience many of the decisions made by school administrators often have more to do with political considerations than educational principle. Beset by concerns of whether any given action will help or hurt their career goals (either to maintain their position, secure a promotion or, at the very least, not be sent back to the classroom, a fate worse than death for some, I suspect), such school managers can be rendered professionally impotent, losing the support of both staff and students.
Ray was different. While certainly not a favorite of the wayward student, every colleague I knew had deep respect for him. He never forgot, as so many do, the sometimes harsh realities of the classroom, and did everything he could to make our jobs a little easier. For example, although I handled most problems on my own, as teachers are expected to do, occasionally I had to send students down to the office for defiant behavior. It was Ray’s practice, either by the day’s end or the next morning, to make sure there was a note in my mailbox explaining the action he had taken on my referral. While that may seem like a small matter, dealings with other vice-principals often meant no followup information unless vigorously pursued by me.
Which of these two management responses tells teachers that their concerns are important?