When Principals Attack

I have posted the following blog entry 365mindfulmoments.blogspot.com.au because I think most teachers can relate to this experience in some way. I know that I have most certainly experienced situations where prinicipals or other members of the administration like to think they have a better idea of what goes on in your classroom than you do. Furthermore, they like to think they have a better understanding of the students that you teach; those students on whom you spend countless hours preparing suitable materials, lesson plans and assessment; those students that you care about and whose social and emotional wellbeing is just as important to you as their educational outcomes because you know they are intrinsically linked. Yes, they think they know more about the students that you see every day who inspire and motivate you. They think they know better than you what your students need to find success at school and life, even though they haven’t spent any time with any of them. Teachers need to be supported by their principal and others within the school administration, not belittled and undermined by the very people who should be celebrating the talent, commitment and passion of their teaching staff.

If those running our schools can’t even demonstrate faith and confidence in teachers and the enormous amount of work they do to help their students find success, what hope is there that we, as a profession, will ever garner such respect form the community at large?

Whilst this blog post is a few years old, it certainly serves as a reminder of what teachers have to endure at the hands of their ‘masters’. This is a very specific example of a scenario that I think is all too familiar for many teachers in Australia. I know from my experiences, and those of my colleagues, that such attacks on the credibility and competence of teachers are far too common.

Hurt Heart
By – Joan Young

Have you ever given your all, heart, soul, mind? I mean your “ALL” and had someone make a disparaging comment about your competence? It happened to me today and though I am trying to get past it, I feel stuck. For an entire school year I have worked diligently to help a very special little girl gain success in my class. I cried at her IEP when the “professionals” who didn’t know her minimized her significant issues, spent countless hours talking with her parents brainstorming ideas to help her succeed, and read everything I could get my hands on to increase my knowledge.

In an attempt to make himself feel more competent, or look better when her mum rightfully questioned a school practice where she was left alone in a small nurses office after an incident where she threw mud all over a yard duty, my principal offhandedly commented “Maybe Mrs. Young wasn’t the best placement for this little girl this year.” He went on to say that perhaps my “background” got in the way. (Of course he did not have the courage to say this to me, but was actually stupid enough to say it to her mum.) My background? My background as a social worker and clinical therapist helped me care for this little girl, teach and learn with her, understand her, and look at her from a strengths perspective. My background helped me create a caring classroom environment where no child belittled, accused, or made fun of her differences. My background helped me tolerate getting hit, spit on, poked in the eye and screamed at more often than I care to recall.

So, when someone who has no clue about what occurred in my classroom because he spent maybe 5-10 total minutes in an entire school year thinks he can speak to “the best place” for my student, am I just to conclude that he knows not what he says? Intellectually, I know the answer, but tell it to my heart. It still aches.

Author Joan Young is teacher with a degree in clinical psychology. She currently runs the blog Finding Ways for All Kids to Flourish

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