Please note that I have heavily edited this comment to prevent the identification of the writer, the principal, or the school.

Related to the post, “It’s all About the Conversation,” a reader writes.

“Cutting into a teacher’s re-direction of a student is like throwing a rock at the teacher when the principal does that in front of a teachers’ class. Principals don’t know each and every class that is in their buildings as well as the teacher of an individual class. Principals who are in the habit of cutting in and thinking they can do a better job of disciplining a class should keep their place and allow the teachers to do their job.

It is really sad when a principal does not realize they have thrown stones and hurt teachers with their words of anger or astonishingly cutting remarks on evaluations that are used to degrade a teacher’s educational skills and can harm a teacher’s ability to attain a job elsewhere, if need be.

Principals really need to come off their pedestals, put themselves in their teachers’ shoes and really reflect upon what they are thinking and their remarks. Being more positive and complimentary goes a long way to aid a student, so it also does for teachers.”

SC Response
This is a difficult comment to respond to since it obviously revolves around specific incidents that have affected you directly. But since you wrote in, I’m going to give it a shot.

1. “Stepping in between a teacher and a student during class.” This is always a dicey proposition. You have to balance to need for the teacher to maintain effective classroom management with the need to provide a healthy learning environment for the student. These two needs are generally not mutually exclusive until the teacher has been pushed to a frustration or breaking point. If a teacher is verbally tearing down a student and/or belaboring a point of discipline, then any nearby professional should step in to improve the situation. We train staff to have a code phrase to share with the teacher when this happens. The fact that it happens generally is neither a good nor a bad thing. We are in the people business, we sometimes get our buttons pushed and we sometimes need assistance. It is the frequency in which this occurs that makes it a good or bad thing. Also, whether we like it or not, as the person ultimately responsible for the entire campus, the Principal has both a right and duty to step in if he or she thinks that it is prudent. That is the job of a Principal

2. “The Teacher written evaluation.” Again, you are obviously writing about specifics of which I have no knowledge. But I will say that most teacher evaluations are as worthless as the piece of paper that they are written on. A primary reason for this has everything to do with your comment. Principals know that if they put down anything other than a glowing review that they will be dealing with hurt feelings and an angry teacher. So most of them just go through the motions. When it comes to formal evaluations, most of us don’t want honest feedback (me included). Honest feedback often hurts. The worst and best day of my career was when Brezina told me I wasn’t ready for a promotion. It was the first time that someone told me that I wasn’t automatically the best. This forced me to quit coasting on a decent talent base and actually start working for the first time. If you don’t like the evaluation, change something. As for it hurting your ability to get another job, it might be a set back in your current district (though probably not), but it shouldn’t effect you at all in another district. Staff evaluations are like student transcripts. They are reviewed so infrequently that they might as well be mythical.

3. “Principals need to put themselves in their teachers’ shoes.” I agree that principals should be more involved with coaching and supporting their staff. The primary vehicle for this is frequent classroom observations with regular coaching and feedback. Unfortunately, when this is first introduced on a campus, there are often hurt feelings. In the absence of feedback, people create their own. If the newly introduced feedback differs from the self-created feedback, the discrepancy can cause conflict. The answer is to just push through it. When the feedback drives improvement to instruction, which then improves student performance, the pain quickly goes away.

4. Finally, I will give you the same advice that I give every Teacher, AP, Principal, Director and Assistant Superintendent who is upset, angry, and/or frustrated with their supervisor. If you have a problem with your boss, it is your problem. Either do what the boss wants or find a new boss.

Good luck.

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