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You have pointed out a dimension of education that often goes unnoticed, perhaps because it is so intangible. The affective element drives so much of our interpretations and actions yet it is difficult to see how it sways conversations while the dialogue is happening.

As an assistant principal, I tend to focus meetings on the tangibles--outcomes, action plans, etc--with prepared counterarguments on hand. In my experience, this has closed off the emotional piece which is so critical. More often than not, people push back on ideas because of concerns and fears (maybe of failure, inability to understand and execute a plan, etc.) and listening to and identifying these concerns go a long way in addressing them. In this case, it is not about a counterargument to prove a point but a way to move the dialogue forward that accounts for the underlying emotions.

Having said that, it would be easy to get bogged down with the affective, where the conversation is so focused on expressing and listening to concerns that you lose sight of the goals. A balancing act is needed here I suppose.


"More often than not, people push back on ideas because of concerns and fears (maybe of failure, inability to understand and execute a plan, etc.) and listening to and identifying these concerns go a long way in addressing them."

In my experience the push back is not due to fear or lack of ability to understand or execute, you pompous ass. It's because often the ideas presented are crappy! I can't remember the last time teachers were actually "consulted". You spend so much of your time telling us what to do, you never have the time to find out if what you're telling us is worthy. Hey, we just might be able to help!

You all need to come on down off your high horse, get a little humility, and realize that just because you sold your souls to become administrators does not mean you know a damn thing we teachers don't know.

In my experience, principals are great at ass-kissing, but not so great with kids, and even worse with subordinates.

Maybe your false sense of confidence blinds you to reality. Maybe your self-importance causes you to become deaf to anything but what you tell each other in Principal meetings.

Do you even realize what you sound like when you say these things? At least I realize I come off as an angry, pompous ass; but that doesn't make me wrong! Ask Rahm Emanuel!

Scott McLeod

TFT, it's okay to use a little less invective and be a little more polite. Disagree with the idea but don't name call, please.

Dave Sherman

Sorry you had a bad principal at some point in your illustrious teaching career. I am sure that we principals all are exactly the same as that bad apple, just like all of your students are exactly the same. What names do you call the kids who disagree with you?

You are the perfect example for why I wrote this post: http://www.leadertalk.org/2008/05/is-teaching-a-p.html


"But what about education? I think school administration is a profession."

So, you are the professionals, eh? Forgive me if I have missed where the elevation to your administrative position suddenly transforms you into something teachers are not.

Does my MA make me a professional? Does the term mean anything? Is it just a word? I think so; you think not. That's where the "pompous" comes in.

Sorry to offend your sense of decorum. God forbid you should take a look in the mirror, Dave. Your post is far more accusatory than mine. So much more superior. How is it up there?

Decorum ain't all it's cracked up to be.

And spare me the appreciation nonsense.

If you are all so professional, why the terrible problems with education? Oh, that's right, it's the teachers and their inability to understand, or their fear of failure, or whatever else that certainly has nothing to do with you. It must be nice to be able to place blame on your subordinates.

Administrators should make sure I have paper, pencils, and the bills are paid.

Leave the teaching to the teachers.

It's a tough world out there. Get over your need for decorum--on a blog--and hear us teachers. Talk to the substance. Don't react to the tone. I am not a child, nor am I your student. Hear what I say, not how I say it. That might get us somewhere. When we are not heard, EVER, we tend to get testy. And administrators have some culpability here.

Your inability to hold both your contempt for my tone and understand the meaning of my words is an issue you ought to look at. If your so able, and smart, so professional, you should be able to do both.

I admitted my tone in my post. Did you not notice that? Don't you see how your responses are non-responses? Is my tone your excuse for ignoring the substance? Why so sensitive?


Scott McLeod

As Seth Godin notes, if your audience isn't listening, it's not their fault but yours.

TFT, we value a vigorous give-and-take on this blog. We value thoughtful discussion and energetic disagreement. Like most blogs, however, we believe that such a dialogue can occur without personal insults. When you want your students to really hear what you're saying, I'm guessing that you don't start off by insulting them because then their emotional hackles get raised and they don't hear anything you say after that. Adults deserve the same courtesy. There are lots of ways of expressing your opinion. We'd like to request that you do so in ways that are not demeaning.

A few things to note:

1. With rare exception, every principal was once a teacher. Nearly every single administrator that I've met (and I've now worked with thousands) has been hard-working, caring, and mindful of their staff and their students' welfare.
2. I agree with you that there often needs to be better dialogue between administrators and teachers. Most educational administration preparation programs emphasize shared leadership principles. That said, some administrators struggle with this more than others.
3. I'm truly sorry that you've had some bad experiences with administrators. When a good administrator leads a school organization - an administrator that knows how to work effectively with teaching staff, students, and parents - amazing things can happen. When an ineffective administrator is in place, however, things can be truly awful. I hope you have the opportunity in your teaching career to work with an amazing administrator.

We appreciate your readership and look forward to the continued conversation. Thanks.


Thanks for listening. Too bad you felt the need to teach me social skills before you responded to the substance.

As people, teachers, humans, it is our duty to try to listen regardless the tone; the tone is usually because of something, and that something should probably be heard as well.

When your own children don't listen at home, often, most of us, once exasperated, raise our voice. It is natural. That is where I am, so I raised my voice. Telling me to calm down is far less productive than showing that you have the ability to listen to my issue rather than respond to my tone and criticize it.

Teachers often have to listen to emotional kids, and see through the emotion to the root. Doing this with peers (subordinates) would be a good example, and would get us somewhere.

I have worked with many administrators as well. Most have been a bit superior in the way I find the post which I am responding to, as well as the post linked to in the comment above. Did you read the comments from teachers on the "professionalism" post? They sound a lot like me, just without the jab. But they were not heard it seems, proving, to me anyway, my point that administrators are relatively deaf to the issue we are addressing in this thread (no, not my language).

Dave Sherman

Great Conversation! I hope this leads to all of us listening and talking to each other a little more carefully. I believe there are three sides to most stories. My side, your side, and the truth somewhere in the middle. We are both right and we are both wrong in our perceptions of teachers and administrators. So let's focus on the students!


…and it is the quest for that truth where we are able to challenge each other’s thinking and not get stuck in the blame game.

I am fortunate to have a teaching staff in my school that is great about keeping our collective focus on the difficult task of helping students learn. Yet, this has not come to be by ignoring their frustrations. While I could certainly improve in the area of listening, my principal and I have made great strides in fostering an environment where staff can share their thoughts about specific ideas, turning their thoughts, positive or negative, into actions towards building a better school for our students.

Done well, educating is grueling work. A large part of it involves constantly monitoring and reevaluating our assumptions about teaching and learning. I have found this to be a somewhat painful process because these assumptions are often attached to affective factors. TFT you have described how the affective impacts a dialogue in progress—the point of the original entry and my comment. Yes, there are underlying reasons for responses and actions. We need to pay attention to these in our interactions, as they tend to be overlooked, yet can shed light into the dynamics of a conversation.



What part of the post are you disagreeing with?

Is your point that the tone is 'superior', preachy, or condescending?

It wasn't meant to be that way. It really was a reflection of something that I have learned along the way.

Including that in order to build trust you need to listen and not come to meetings with a personal agenda


it's easier to build trust with others when you don't have negative judgments about them.

The post was meant to help school leaders be more open, present, and connected when they work with their staffs, their teams, and their teachers.

What issue are you angry about?


BTW I wasn't


Pete, I was really responding to Jill. That is who I quoted in my response. Your post was fine.

I have read your blog for a while now, and often I read it as condescending and superior. When Jill chimed in--in a way I found terribly popmpous--I snapped. It happens.

But her comments are indicative of the tenor of countless meetings I have been in where it is obvious the principal has an agenda (usually silent), refuses to hear discussion, puts limits on how the discussion should go, or what should be said. I can only think of the great quote by our new president-elect--silly season.

Here you have years of experience in a room, and yet discussion is directed as if teachers are students, and the principal is the teacher. And, as I said earlier, often it's the teachers who have more experience than the principal. In my case, the principal had never set foot in an elementary school, and now she is a principal.

Teachers are being marginalized, and we feel it. We do not like it because it feels bad, but more importantly, we see our practice suffering and our kids suffering due to it.

Maybe you all are enlightened. Or I should say, some of you may be enlightened. But it doesn't shine through. I would give my right arm to work in a school where I felt appreciated. Not told I am appreciated--but where I was actually appreciated--to the point I could feel it.

I understand the pressure principals are under having to deal with the Super and the board. Teachers used to be able to luxuriate in knowing we were safe from that, and in the old days, most principals were too. But, since principals have decided to save the world (close the achievement gap, make AYP, etc), they are becoming too bureaucratic and beholden to the corporation--the board and Super.

I hate vouchers, and I question charter schools. But, I am ready to attempt a hostile takeover of my school, with the many disgruntled teachers and parents, and charter it. I know a number of things I would do differently that I think would make my school better.

So, yes, I got angry. I had a good reason. I took it out in a comment, and the "pompous ass" was a bit over the top. But I felt it, and feel it. There is a pompousness to Jill's comment, and to many interactions I have had on "leader" blogs.

Principals, at least in California, have a few extra college units. I have more than many them given my MA. They have no reason to feel superior. None. Nada. But, that's how many come across. It's condescending, and silly. Silly season.

Thanks for sticking with me.

CSET test

Yes,Teachers are being marginalized, and we feel it. We do not like it because it feels bad, but more importantly, we see our practice suffering and our kids suffering due to it.Nice job.

CSET test

Yes,Teachers are being marginalized, and we feel it. We do not like it because it feels bad, but more importantly, we see our practice suffering and our kids suffering due to it.Nice job.


Thanks, I think I understand better. Let me respond on two levels...first to the tone and then to your complaint that many Principals aren't qualified, that teachers are marginalized.

First, on a personal note, I was in the classroom for many years, and was a teacher's union official for a number of them. I left teaching because I felt marginalized. We lose 50% of new teachers by year 5 because of this feeling of being dis-empowered.

I have devoted much of my life since that time to working with school leaders at all levels to help them to improve so that our schools would improve.

I believe school leaders need to lead with their hearts and their minds. Why? because there are a lot of smart people running our schools and being smart and having a degree, unfortunately, in some places, passes for leadership.

Effective leadership combines smarts and hearts. An effective leader listens to his staff, insures they feel valued and not marginalized and is not pompous, all knowing, and bureaucratic.

When I was a teacher and in the other positions I've held in my life, I had a tendency to be self-righteous and judgmental. It held me back from accomplishing some of things I wanted to do. I have worked hard over the past decade to be less so, and generally that is the case.

It's ironic that you felt a tone of pomposity in this post which was focused on being open to others, less judgmental.

I guess it re-enforces my point that, regardless of the topic/agenda of the meeting (or post)....tone counts.



Again, Pete, my initial response was referring to the quote by Jill, not your post. But thanks.

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