A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Bunker Mentality

It's once again been over two weeks since we've seen administrators anywhere in the building-- the crises just keep rolling along. I do not envy them. But it seems that even on days when there aren't hearings or meetings with parents, Our Dear Leader hunkers down behind closed doors and pulled shades.

Let me tell you, this is not a good thing to do.

Now, we've long ago given up the idea that a principal should be an instructional leader, although that would seem to be necessary with the district rolling out some new instructional initiative every month -- do not think that I exaggerate. But the kids are smelling the fear emanating from the central office better than the Predator did in that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. And so are some of the more hard-hearted staff members.

But someone who has more than five seconds of experience in the field of education at the ground level needs to tell you: the problem with hiding in a bunker is more than just the fact that it's awfully hard to push the door back open after a while. There're several others.

1. While you are in there, you completely lose touch with what is going on out in the school. I wonder if the administrators have ef noticed that the more they hide, allegedly taking care of problems, problems multiply even faster?

2. The more you stay in there cowering away, the more irrelevant you appear to both staff and students. That is even worse than point number one, although point number one feeds into point number two.

3. Staying in the bunker appears cowardly since the staff has been left by your default to deal with all the blowback from the crisis du jour. This is especially ironic and deadly if you have previously taken an attitude that staff members are not to be trusted as professionals when THEY have been the ones holding down the fort while you try to decide how to respond.

In Plato's thought experiment known as the Cave, those who were kept in the cave, seeing only shadows projected on the walls of what they told were reality, had no idea what true reality was like. All they knew were distorted shadows. That's wherer any administrators end up who allow themselves to lose touch with their primary tasks.

Don't let this happen to you.

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At 12/5/10, 4:56 PM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

Teachers have nowhere to hide. We're on the front lines and can't count on the sort of admin you describe. I learned years ago to expect nothing from admin and I've never been disappointed.

This sort of administrator is a symptom of the person who goes into it to "get out of the classroom." That person, predictably, has no desire to return to it and little capacity to deal with what happens within it.

Remarkable such folks get paid more than we do, when we're the only people actually covering their asses.

I'm not saying all admin is like that--but some are, and they're the worst.


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