A reader asks:
“Cain, I was recently in a job interview. The committee began the interview with a description of the school so that I could better frame my responses. The school is in the final stages of not meeting AYP and is also getting bruised by the State of Texas. The description included the fact that teachers are not following the district mandated curriculum and something has to be done very quickly to save the school and the students. As a veteran LYS principal I just knew I was in the right spot. Little did I know that the preemptive school description was the last time in the interview I would hear the word “student.”
Question #1 out of the gate involved adult comfort and included the phrase “teacher morale.” I knew I was in the wrong place. In fact, virtually every interview question was centered on adult comfort and interactions or school management. The real issues of instructional leadership were danced around but never directly addressed. I directly addressed them at any rate.
I knew before I walked out that I had wasted a day and there was not chance in hell I would ever hear from Ignorant ISD again. Is there a lesson in here somewhere?”
Actually yes, there are a couple of lessons. The first lesson is that most people believe that if everyone just shows up to work that should be enough. After that it is the student’s responsibility to learn and the parent’s responsibility to make them. The only good thing about that fact is when those educators make up the competition it doesn’t take much to separate yourself from the pack. As an Old School LYS’er, you know that adult practice drives student performance. But I’m assuming that statement didn’t endear you to the committee.
The second lesson is that people want the easy answer. They want to hear that they can do what they have always done and you will bring in a magic program for “those” kids and all will be better. There’s not a magic program, but there is a magic formula:
Set aggressive short term goal / Work hard / Measure result / Work hard, differently / Measure result / Repeat until goal is met / Set new aggressive goal / Repeat cycle
Unfortunately, most schools will not follow the formula because it includes goals, hard work, different work, and accountability.
The third lesson is that closed systems are the equivalent of cousins getting married. The results are never pretty. Ignorant ISD, where you just interviewed, has a long history of hiring from within. They also have a history of repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Back during the TAAS era, I was dispatched to the district to quietly advise them that they were about to run head long over the cliff. They didn’t listen then and evidently they still haven’t learned their lesson. Kind of reminds me of the district where you are beating your head against the wall right now. In both cases it is easy to blame the teachers, but leadership failure is the real disease.
The final lesson is this, don’t compromise yourself. You knew right away that you could feed the committee what they wanted to hear, but that would be a lie. Interviews work both ways, you are interviewing the organization and they are interviewing you. If you are not honest about who you are and what you believe in, the relationship is doomed to failure. It is better to pass on the bad job and wait for the organization that recognizes and values your strengths.
Think. Work. Achieve.