I worked with many different administrators during my years as a teacher. Reading an obituary for one of those principals recently I was reminded of how organized and efficient he was- great at getting teachers the supplies and equipment they needed. Although he liked paperwork to be up to date, I remember once when I was feeling just terrible because I’d lost an important school document. He was so supportive, reassuring me it was his job to take care of such problems. And he did.
I was supervised by more than a dozen principals during my thirty-five years in the classroom and each had their own strengths. One was kind and compassionate, a consensus builder whose door was always open to staff. Another encouraged teachers to be innovative and backed you to the hilt if you wanted to try creative things in your classroom. I worked for one young administrator in his first year on the job. He was so enthusiastic and hardworking it was a pleasure to be on his staff.
One of my administrators was a devout academic. He liked to discuss educational philosophy, learning theories and all the latest pedagogical research. He also was a man who kept his word. I knew I could trust him.
I remember one principal who was a great detective. One day during a high school English class when my back was turned to the board, a young man lit a firecracker and threw it across the room. I had an idea of the general area where the explosive had originated but I didn’t know who had thrown it. No one confessed. I alerted the office and the principal arrived in short order. It took him only a minute of walking through the room and asking a few questions to pinpoint the perpetrator, find additional firecrackers in his backpack and escort him out of the room.
I did have an administrator who simply disappeared one day. Turns out he’d run off to another country abandoning his family and our teaching staff. A principal I worked for in the United States was a retired navy captain. He gave women little credit for intelligence. Since my husband and I were working on the same staff I had to get my husband to approach the principal for things I wanted done, because it was the only way my ideas would be given an audience. I had one head administrator who had his first personal conversation with me at my farewell party. However one of his energetic vice-principals provided me with great classroom support during my time on staff.
I did work briefly for a female vice- principal but otherwise all my administrators were men. I’m glad times are changing. The various school jurisdictions where I taught in the past now have many female administrators.
An administrator can make a crucial difference to a school’s ethos. No one administrator is good at everything. Each has unique strengths and talents. The quality in an administrator I admired the most was integrity. I consider myself lucky to have worked for so many principals who did their job responsibly, took a genuine interest in teachers and students and didn’t just talk about all the good things they were doing. They actually did them!