Readers will undoubtedly have detected a bias against administrators so far in my writing. I make no apologies for that bias; it is one that will be evident in future posts as well. However, I would like to talk a little about two people, one a principal, and one a vice-principal, for whom I had a great deal of respect.
Earlier I discussed Bill from Manitoba, who I said set the gold standard for leadership. Another principal of real integrity was a man named Rick, who led an Ontario high school. Rick’s refreshing philosophy, increasingly rare today, was a simple one. He would say to kids, “Yeah, you’re right, life sucks and you got a raw deal. But what are you going to do about it?” In other words, while it may seem like an increasingly quaint concept today, he tried to teach young people that their fate was ultimately in their hands, even when outside forces seemed to conspire against them. It’s something that the education system should be teaching all students, but increasingly, with the plethora of labels given to kids, be it “anger management issues” or “attention-deficit disorder” or, my personal favorite, “oppositional defiant disorder” (the kid won’t do what he’s told), all kinds of exceptions are made for improper classroom behavior, the consequence being that there often are no consequences. Therefore, having a principal who embodied common sense instead of the latest trend was both refreshing and a definite tonic for staff morale. And for the most part, the kids rose to the challenge. If they didn’t, they eventually left the school with Rick’s ‘encouragement.’
In my next post I’ll talk about Ray, a vice-principal who never forgot what it is to be a classroom teacher.