Life lessons for principals: 5 signs that your school is not well
Well, given that I've been teaching for longer than one of my assistant principals has been alive ( not really, but almost!) advice is being offered, solicited or not. This goes out to all the administrators out there, even those who do NOT understand the photo illustration to my left here, which is an example of what NOT to do as well:
1. Walk out into the hallways right after the tardy bell rings. Are there more than one or two kids in the halls? Are those kids ambling, or scrambling? If the answer to either one of these is yes, then you and your staff are not in control of the amount of content being delivered to the students, and therefore the school is not doing its main job. You are not in control of the school. This means that you are not performing your main job, which is to ensure that instruction can take place.
1a. Let me be clear: the main job of a school is NOT to provide a bright clean place to hang out. It is not there to keep potential thugs or partiers off the streets. It is not there to provide social services such as meals, haircuts, or visits with health care professionals. A school must primarily exist to provide the opportunity to gain an education. A school must emphasize this as its main mission, or it will be merely a very expensive community center full of people who don't seem to know very much-- and that could include the staff, and that means YOU.
2. Walk out into the hallways fifteen minutes after class has begun, or ten minutes before the end of a class period. The last class period of the day is especially good for this. Are there kids wandering around (Wait! you interrupt. Don't you mean "students?" And the answer is, No, I do not. Just hanging out in a school does not make one a student any more than just hanging out at Cape Canaveral makes one an astronaut. But I digress.) Kids skipping class with impunity means that you and your staff are not in control of the amount of content being delivered to the students, and therefore the school is not doing its main job. You are not in control of the school. This means that you are not performing your main job, which is to ensure that instruction can take place.
3. Walk into the bathrooms. Smell smoke? If you want to see how much damage and panic can ensue from a real fire evacuation, just continue to ignore this, and then stand back and watch the fun. This means that you are not performing your secondary job, which is to ensure that the school is a safe and orderly place to be.
4. Does your school have a behavior code or guide? Do you regularly ignore or act unaware of the consequences prescribed in the behavior guide and merely "talk to" students with referrals or place them on "suspended sentences?" Do you then wonder why the staff either a) no longer trusts you or b) no longer enforces the behavior guide themselves? This means that you are not performing your secondary job, which is to ensure that the school is a safe and orderly place to be. Only have the rules you are going to enforce. Otherwise, stop pretending and get rid of the behavior guide.
4a. Really, you're a grown person and you want to be "friends" with adolescents? You need to be something much more valuable to them: an adult whose behavior they can predict and rely upon, and someone who cares enough to encourage them to better behavior and safer behavior by predictably responding to poor choices with correction and redirection. The kids really don't think that spineless poseurs are cool. They think they are chumps. And chumps make more work for themselves by not being clear about what the limits for behavior are, because kids will push until they find out those limits.
5. Do you make eye contact with staff when they are speaking with you? Do you respond to emails in a timely manner? Do you seek out information and then act upon it? If you want to be openly supercilious, then go work at some snooty retail outlet, where they seem to cultivate such disregard in their staff.
Just trying to be helpful. You should try it sometime.