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Here's Your Nickel

Under appreciated and under supported.

Overexposed and overwhelmed.

When I “was on the way up” as a young school administrator, one of my favorite graduate professors, a former principal, told of a heated conversation he had with a parent. The parent had declared, “I pay your salary, you know!”

The principal took a deep breath, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a nickel.

Offering the coin to the self righteous parent, he said, “Here is your share. Now I don’t owe you anything.”

As someone who spent the bulk of a 35-year career as a school principal, I totally understand his action. A lot of people you serve think they can do a better job than a school leader, even if they don’t know the first thing about working in a school. If a principal were to behave as though they knew anything about the parent’s job, all hell would break loose.

It seems that most adults know all they need to know about how to run a school because they went to school as a student.

Think of it another way: Would you presume to know what your dentist knows just because you’ve had your teeth cleaned?

Or when a surgeon is called to set the broken wrist your kid sustained after falling from their skateboard, are you going to tell him/her how to do it better because you got some stitches in the ER 20 years ago?

The way I see it, many parents and caregivers see school administrators and teachers as some kind of free-for-all, public servant punching bags where they can unload on them - act as wildly and as poorly as possible - and the school folks have to take it, no matter how wrong those parents or care givers might be.

“Here’s your nickel. Now back off and let me do the job I was trained to do. Remember, I’m the expert at this.”

Of course these presumptuous people are hypocrites. The great majority of parents and caregivers are good, supportive people who admit they wouldn’t last an hour working in a school. They support their schools and the people who run them.

Most school districts are divided into smaller units, such as “regions” or “areas.” Unfortunately, the tiny minority who create these ugly scenarios find an attentive ear from District Office personnel like superintendents, area superintendents, and so forth. The people that work in those offices, many of them former school principals, have the unpleasant duty of not only listening to these extreme, possibly unstable parents, but then trying to placate them.

And instead of telling them, “The job of school principal is the hardest job in the world - period. You’ll have to trust me on this. Sorry, lady/sir, you are just wrong here. The principal is right. I will share your concern with the principal. Please have a nice day.”

That’s it.

But no. Most regional or area superintendents respond to these difficult folks by leveling blame at the principal, even though they know otherwise. Courage, commitment and support of principals are lacking - even from those who know better.

The result?

K-12 principals feel under appreciated and under supported. They feel overexposed and overwhelmed.

Is it any wonder the pool of qualified professionals who line up to be school principals is dwindling? Make no mistake - it is. And the data support it, in spite of superintendents touting the myth that there are plenty of candidates lined up to withstand expectations of perfection without support. Nonsense and lies.

It’s time to support school administration and their teachers. If we want them to walk the high wire, at least provide a net of support.

Since coronavirus, are you sure you untrained, wannabe educators don’t want to step in and run the schools? I mean, how hard can it be?

Though I never used it, I kept a nickel on the top of my desk for 22 years.

©️Copyright by David Samore. Excerpts in part or whole may not be used without the expressed permission of David Samore.

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