03 March 2005

The Blind Leading the Blind

The principal in our building is a nice guy. He's got a great sense of humor, has diverse interests, and has now invested several years in our school. I always enjoy chatting with him.

Here's my big but: the chief admin isn't strong in instructional leadership skills and (self-admittedly) avoids any sort of situation where there might be confrontation. These are not the best attributes to find in your school's leader.

We teachers know that the "emperor has no clothes," so it isn't as if I'm spilling any beans here. But the problem is that with all the issues schools are taking on these days, we really need strong instructional leadership.

Next Friday, we have a "Learning Improvement Day" (LID)---which is just a fancy term for a teachers' workday. It's been on the calendar for ages...and yet, the principal is just now getting around to thinking about what to do on that day. And if that isn't enough to worry anyone, just guess who he's called in to help him plan things: me.

It is true that I am called upon to deliver high quality content to a passle of people everyday. I am used to putting together presentations and leading discussions. However, this is not the same as delivering professional development to one's peers. I am working to acquire these skills in my role as district Science Goddess, but I am a novice, at best.

I have somehow convinced my admin to undertake a hefty program next Friday. We will finally start having some discussion in my building about standards-based education, our beliefs about change, and starting on the road of Powerful Teaching and Learning. This sort of conversation has been sorely lacking---and is very necessary if we're ever going to move forward as a school. How can we expect to help more of our students achieve if we just keep doing the same old, same old?

This is big stuff. And if you're my principal---it likely leaves brown marks in your tighty-whities. But it's time for him to step up, I think. I really believe that he can do a wonderful job. The kids who will land on our doorstep in September will be the first for whom the new graduation requirements are in effect. Those sophs will have to earn their credits; pass the state tests in reading, writing, and math (science will be a "must" for graduation 2 years beyond); complete a culminating project; and file a "year + plan," outlining their goals for the year after high school. If we don't find ways to work together as teachers, these kids will pay the penalties. They won't graduate, although we'll keep our jobs.

So, as small as my Professional Development knowledge bank is, I'm going to do what I can over the next week to help pull together the kind of workday that we should have been having for a long time. Which one of us is the "blind leader" in this scenario? I'll let you decide.


Anonymous said...

Seems to me that this is a sign of even bigger problems. The position of principal is, by definition really, a leadership position. Who put this guy in a spot where he has to lead but doesn't know how?

Just make sure you get credit for doing the boss' work for him. Maybe you could drop a subtle hint by buying him - for his birthday or something - one of those books on leadership. I know that the first time I was put in a leadership role, I went right out and bought about four books. I'm not sure they helped, but I'm positive they didn't hurt. If nothing else, they force you to think through what your role is and how you intend to carry it out.

The Science Goddess said...

The boss is always grateful for whatever help he gets. And he needs lots.

In some ways, it's a "puppet principalship." Pull his strings and make him dance to your tune, if you're into that kind of thing.

Hopefully he will retire in the next year or two and we will be able to hire someone with vision and leadership. Until then, I'll help out now and then to keep the boat afloat.