In response to the post and comment, “A Fatal Flaw – Past 2,” a reader writes:
“I think I agree with the poster, but caution is needed. I used to think that if I took care of teachers, teachers would take care of kids. I could not have been more wrong. Without hyper-monitoring and common assessments many teachers will not meet the needs of students. Professional development is OK and needed, but think about this: most teachers have read about and been exposed to the ideas of best practices. If they are not practicing them, they either don’t know how to go from theory to practice, or they want to do their own thing (or both).
This makes me wonder how effective continued professional development can be. If you can’t execute the fundamentals, why get training on advanced topics? If teachers don’t know how to go from theory to practice, that is where an awesome principal is required. As I have stated in previous comments, if you can’t give a teacher specific, efficient, and effective methods to improve instruction, you need to re-evaluate your ability as an instructional leader, and start making adjustments to your own practice. Don’t just tell teachers that rigor is low, anyone can spot that. Tell them with great detail how to fix it; not many principals can do this.
In my military days, I was taught to lead from the front, not the rear. This is what Cain is talking about when he writes about credibility and “every adult a teacher”. It boils down to the fact that almost every administrator can talk the talk, but few can walk the walk. Show me an ineffective campus and I will show you ineffective teachers, supported from the rear – by ineffective administration.
By the way, I have walked many students to class, virtually holding their hand. I frequent the life skills class to support the neediest of my students. I have taught students math who were sent out of class by teachers. I have disciplined students, even though I have assistant principals for that task. I counsel students, even though I have counselors for that task. I have rendered medical aide to students, even though I have a nurse for that task. So yes, the principal is supposed to “walk students to class by the hand”, so to speak, if that is what it takes to win. I don’t like losing.”
The writer is spot on. His comments set up a big reveal that few in authority want to hear. Though the symptoms may manifest themselves in any number of ways, school failure always boils down to a failure in leadership. The leadership failure can occur as close to the classroom as the Department Chair and as removed from the classroom as the School Board. My job and skill set is to identify the leadership breakdown and provide the prescription that reinforces the systems that support teachers and students.
In this role, there are two facts that quickly become apparent. First, the higher up the leadership failure, the more critical it is for an outsider to identify and address it. If you don’t believe this, then feel free to go tell your Superintendent everything he or she is doing wrong. This generally is a very good career move – for the person who wants your job.
Second, the campus principal can correct the leadership failures at his or her level and below. And most importantly, for as long as he or she as the energy, the principal can overcome most of the failure of leadership above his or her level.
Unfortunately, if you are fighting the failures above your level, you won’t be appreciated and when you leave the results of your hard work will quickly fade away.
Think. Work. Achieve.