Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Goal for This Year Is to Avoid Running Screaming from the Principal's Office

Really, a teacher blog about goals pretty much writes itself. All I have to do is say (type) the word and I can hear thousands of heads banging against chalkboards and keyboards. I actually don't mind the goal-setting business so much--I really do think children need to take more responsibility for their own learning, even at young ages, and goal-setting can be a way to help them do it. But, well, take my darling principal. This week, Principal X, as s/he shall be known, got wind of my planned goal-setting activity--I dare not specify how as to avoid revealing my whereabouts and circumstances. But s/he did, and decided to bring me in for a little chat. This chat revealed to me and reminded me of a few things:
  • Any reasonably good idea in education can swiftly turn into a bad one when it is imposed and micromanaged rather than discussed, collaborated upon, and gradually implemented;
  • Principal X is managing from a place of fear and domination, rather than experience and wisdom, and I need to be patient with him/her and maintain faith in my own competence and leadership in my own classroom;
  • Trying to satisfy yourself will always be more satisfactory than trying to satisfy others.

I'd rather not reveal the specifics of our chat, but I will say that it has ended up creating more work and more headaches for me, and less time actually interacting with the material I would like to teach for my children. Commenters here have helped me to accept this as being more or less inevitable.

Principal X doesn't seem to understand that his/her management style is not making teachers come around. What it is making us do is become more secretive about what is actually happening in our classroom, more resentful, less productive, and less compassionate with the children. I'm really trying to cultivate compassion for what s/he must be going through, but I don't think it's uncharitable to assume that most of my colleagues are focusing on what a pain in the ass s/he is making their work. And when they're feeling that way, they don't have the capacity to be compassionate with the children as much, which is certainly not good for them--our real bosses, as I said in one of my NYCEducator posts this week.

So back to goal setting. Mine is to not let my annoyance with Principal X get in the way of loving and teaching the children, though that's certainly not the kind of thing I'd share in a "professional conversation." And as far as teaching goal-setting, well, I'm trying to look at it this way: Doing it Principal X's way will keep him/her at least temporarily sated and off my back, and at least, won't harm the children. So I'm going to do it Principal X's way. If I lose a period to doing something I consider not entirely productive, well, I lose whole periods to things I already consider even less productive.

And maybe one more goal of mine is to keep an eye out for a different school, but only one eye, and only from time to time, so that my eyes don't leave the children I already don't get to "watch" for very long.