SWG#3 EDU5263 Fall 2010 Ed Bell The Man in the Principal’s Office “Another thing that Ed often does is get all hepped up about next year at the close of the year. He might as well give up, because teachers are too tired, too involved in the winding up of the classroom, to get very excited about next fall. And it’s very boring to the staff that are not coming back to talk about next year’s class.” Teacher, Taft ElementaryTime is Not Always on Your Side.Despite what the Rolling Stones may think, time can often be ahindrance especially in the workplace. Principals are not anexception to this rule. The principal’s role is a difficult one, theymust not only manage the day-today workings of a typical schoolbut they must also have the hindsight and foresight to control thepast present and future in order for their institution to continue tooperate. This task often requires the principal to delegate duties tostaff members and require assistance from the school board butultimately the ownership and responsibility lies on the principal’sshoulders. A Year in the Life Begin planning for the following school year only three months into the current year. Submit next year’s estimated budget in the first week of December. Target student teachers that show promise in hopes of hiring them for the following school year in the month of February. Ask faculty their preferences (grade, room etc.) for the following year and already begin to make assignments in March. Curriculum changes done by April Inform teachers to begin preparing major assignments for the following school year in April. Students attending next September need to be brought in to school in May with their parents Critical Analysis to prepare them for next fall. Talk as the work: “Begin thinking about the class assignments” is an example of Gronn’s analysis of control. In this case it appears that Ed Bell might be using reply ii: Talk at. Although this may be a general statement to all teachers it is very clear that Ed is talking at his faculty. Seven-Lesson School Teacher: Gatto lists the first lesson every teacher teaches, confusion, and in this case the lesson is being taught amongst staff. This confusion most certainly gets relayed to the students. While Ed is caught in the future and his teachers are dependent on him for the present we see a disconnect that is the result of to much being taught or in this case managed. The notion of a principal living on an overlapping 19 month calendar is extended to all contemporary school settings despite the fact that the job description given by most principals involves starting and finishing a 12 month year where for nine months the primary focus is student learning.
The cycle of the principalship 2010 : A Glimpse notHadley on one school year but My actions to date are at focused on carrying out the three year school success plan.Within the halls of Hadley Junior High School in Gatineau, Quebec students and teachers alike are filled Dodi Payne, Vice-Principal, Hadley Junior High Schoolwith a sense of enthusiasm that only a Friday afternoon can bring. Administrators are without this unbridled SWG#3 EDU5263 Fall 2010joy for the weekend as that would imply that there week was coming to an end. While the majority of theschool’s inhabitants will enjoy the first week of Christmas shopping the administrators will be attendingschool success plan meetings and the only other people in the building will be the schools after-hoursmaintenance crew.This is the norm for an administrator, while others are enjoying a well deserved break they are heldaccountable to work longer hours and during the summer months. The planning for the current school yearand future school years are done well in advance and in conjunction with provincial and regional governingboards. In the case of Hadley, a three year plan is created. This three year plan follows the school’s missionstatement, objectives, and includes detailed strategies and action all of which are compiled into what isknown as the school success plan. The ultimate goal for the principal is to help plan this three yearendeavor and ultimately see it through. This differs in comparison to the world of Ed Bell seen in Harry F.Wolcott’s The Man in the Principal’s Office who lives on an overlapping 19 month calendar that focuses onthree separate school years because the plan is created and then committed to over the three year course andthen not until the end of the cycle does the focus shift to planning the next three years. The principal’s maingoal in planning this three year cycle is delegating and appointing colleagues to ensure its success and allowfor a concentrated focus for holistic success.Compared to the “to do” list Hadley seems to have found a different schedule. For example students whoare new to Philemon Wright High School and Hadley Junior High School are given an orientation dayduring the first few days of the school year. These days are dedicated to the typical grades that have newstudent populations. For instance the first day of school is only open to grade 7 and grade 9 students. Thefollowing school day only grades 8, 10 and 11 can enter the building and the grade 7’s and 9’s are asked tostay home. On the third day all grades are brought in.Often times the frustration and confusion of planning on a three year calendar is passed on to staffmembers. This is also portrayed in Wolcott’s ethnography. Whether or not this confusion that is alsorelayed in Gatto’s “Seven Lessons…” accidentally or not is a matter of debate. 2
SWG#3 EDU5263 Fall 2010YOUR GUIDE TO BECOMING & REMAINING A PRINCIPALSo you want to become a principal? Career decisions about becoming an administrator are made early. In order for CRITICAL THINKERS: WHO NEEDS THEM?you to become a principal there are two processes are linked to ideas of:(a) “Sponsorship” (akaneeds to be done in order to become a principal, After looking at what “sponsored mobility”) andwhat to expect asadministrationitwill “recruit” to see they all thesewill be beneficial to a school’s administration; Many current a principal – is important those that can see ideas are connected to researchare essentially done in the field of to become a principal. these current principals that has been “sponsoring” others This idea Metz in the article “Real school: A universal drama education. Mary is proven through Wolcott’s ethnography – stating that: “Sponsorship appeared to have been a key amid disparate experience” (1989) relates the idea principals in the district had achieved their administrative status” factor in the process by which many of the of conformity in (p.194). education back to what we need to expect as principals. Metz (1989)(b) “GASing” (aka “contest mobility”) meaning, “Getting the-Attention of-Supervisors” looks at the idea of teachers as “normalisers” – also bringing back the control in autonomy. As principals, kind of attention without appearing that you are trying too hard to get it. idea of The keyvs. GASing is to get the right it is important to make sure (Wolcott, p.198) teachers are teaching the individual; we need to learn how autonomy can The idea ofschool wecan also be linked to formal academic preparation; school administrations generally do be used within the GASing run. WHAT TO EXPECT AS A PRINCIPAL... Conformity The terms “autonomy” is very present in the day in the life of a In the article “Talk as the Work: The Accomplishment of School Administration” (1983) Gronn’s ideas can be related back to the idea of socialization in supervision or socialization as principals. Peter Gronn “Between two thirds and suggests that talk is the medium for interaction. We learns that talk can be three quarters of the total used to build coherence, consistency and meaning in the institution if used working time of a principal correctly. For example, within the central system of the school board there or superintendent isthe Bring on spent is constant principal Eddownward communication betweenwant to give up our As upward and Bell states: “Most of us don’t teachers, talking...talk isRevolution students, administration etc. – the conformity. I’m high onwithin the (Wolcott, p. Learning the work” autonomy for the sake of flow of communication that list” system (Gronn, 1983, Individual is important. Ed understands the power of the central office (aka. the school Teaching the p.2). 208). board); however he also speaks to us about the strategies he uses in order to achieve autonomy. For example, making sure there are few complains, http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution.html -THEY SAID WHAT?!?- going ahead with a program without making a big issue, and as Ed states – not doing anything that will “rock the boat too much” (Wolcott, p. 209). Principal socialization Socialization relates to the role the principal takes (i.e. knowing what behaviour is appropriate) As Ed Bell also states: “I think it’s just luck, catching someone’s ear, or being at the right place at the right time. Different kinds of information principals control and use (i.e. knowing information about different There were other guys who had been around longer than me when they asked me to take on my first job as an people) acting principal” (Wolcott, p.193). Each principal is there for a reason, and in order to get into that position you Socialization related to the educator subculture (i.e. how well you do as a principal depends on your need to be able to get noticed by those who “matter”. socialization skills and efforts; need to know how to interact with colleagues) Expectations of professional behaviour (i.e. accumulated wisdom based on years of professional experience). 3
“Socialization occurs as a function of human interaction, not merely theunilateral action of a single individual. The socializer socializes, but is Socialization tips from Taft teachersalso socialized in the process” (p. 266) -“A school […] has an atmosphere that either fits, or does not fit, yourself as a SWG#3 teacher” (p. 231). Find a school that fits you. EDU5263 Fall 2010 Kay Johnson, new teacher -“‘tighten up’ after you’ve been nice and easy” (p. 233) and be prepared for the principal to drop by. Mary Lou Berg, new teacher - THE PRINCIPALattend a church conference and don’t leave the Don’t ask to leave school to AS SOCIALIZER building before 4:00 p.m. Alma Skirmish, experienced teacher In - Do not attempt to make any changesthethe system even though it needs to a school, the principal plays to role of socializer. New teachers if you’re going toformer teacher and Ph. D candidate encounter change experience culturalteaching. Ellwood New, stay in compression as they culturally patterned “boundaries of acceptable behaviors” (Wolcott, p.229) that fit into the school culture. They are judged by how well they conform to the culture. The principal may attempt to enculturate experienced teachers who do not share his or her educational philosophy by giving them a negative performance evaluation or by suggesting they should transfer out of the school. Teachers who do not agree with the principal’s pedagogy may be socialized out of the school or they may attempt to counter-socialize the principal. Teachers who do not depend on their teaching job for status or for income may be partially immune to socialization efforts. Loosening the Coupling The formal teacher evaluation process mandated by central office is tightly coupled to the “organizational rules and policies” (Wolcott, 2003, p. 268) of the educational hierarchy. Ed had to evaluate new and specific experienced teachers each year. He followed a prescribed process and completed specific forms in a set time frame to send to central office. Ed used the teacher evaluation process to socialize teachers into his pedagogical vision for Taft school or to encourage teachers who did not fit in to transfer out of the school. Although Ed attempted to “define the situation and [teachers were] expected to fall in line with that view” (Gronn, 1983, p. 12), a teacher used talk as “an instrument or tool” (p. 2) to challenge Ed’s evaluation of her teaching. In doing so, Mrs. Skirmish counter-socialized Ed and he loosened the coupling between the final evaluation forms he submitted to central office and his general impression that she was a traditional teacher who could not change. This demonstrates Weick’s (1976) concept that there is “increased pressure on members to construct or negotiate some kind of social reality they can live with (p. 13) in a loosely coupled world. Mrs. Skirmish wanted “one tangible reason” (p. 263) why she should be dismissed since “the things [Ed] mentioned as weaknesses were mainly what [her] last principal had mentioned were strengths” (p. 262). The fact that the same teacher could be considered effective by one principal and ineffective by another for the same reasons highlights Young & Levin’s (2002) insight on how difficult it is to agree on what teaching practices should be in place in schools. 4
SWG#3 EDU5263 Fall 2010 Experienced teachers as socializers In the current Ontario system the process of socializing teachers is much more difficult than in the time of Ed Bell. While evaluations do occur and are filed with the respective school boards, their meaning is much diminished due to union influence. New teachers must adapt quickly to cultural compression due to a shortage of jobs. In a recent situation, a principal tried to have an unfit teacher removed from the school and could not due to union protection. No matter what approach the principal took socialization was not possible. In this case the principal was able to manipulate the teacher’s timetable in such a way that they were disgruntled enough to take early retirement. The principal fought back against the socialization from the board, union, and province and was able exert his will upon the staff of the school. With revolving principals it is very difficult to set up a long term approach to help socialize teachers into the school community. As a result experienced teachers are often the most influential socializers in a school. Head of the Class http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=KZcMIL5cs7U&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=jKUGowt_- UI&playnext=1&list=PLD605BA8840 A0A59B&index=37 Source: http://timvp.com/headoftheclass AnalysisNot only do we bear witness to teachers and principals being socialized in the classroom but we can also see howstudents engage in this process. Here we have Dr Samuels who is determined to maximize the output of most giftedstudents with little concern for what they may feel. It takes Mr. Moore (a substitute teacher) to open the students’eyes to the fact that they can speak for themselves and no they won’t be punished. Mr. Moore is socializing thestudents into the school community and yet it is the students that must socialize Dr. Samuels into the student’s worldat the school. Another example of how deep socialization runs in schools. When the ideas and concepts are boileddown we find the notion socialization at the core of everything a school does. The principal socializes the staff,students, parents and administration. On the flip side the principal is also socialized by the staff, students, parents andadministration. Through looking at Ed and the reality of these other examples we come back to the conclusion thatthe main goal of schooling is socialization and it appears in subtle manors throughout the building. 5
SWG#3 EDU5263 Fall 2010 What Would Andy Rooney Think? http://www.remotepatrolled.com/2010/05/andy-rooneys-musical-rant-60minutes/ What does SWG 3 think? http://edu5263.pbworks.com/w/page/30490616/SWG-3 Reader Responses to “A principled principal”J. Smith, teacher, writes:I read The Man in the Principal’s office after listening to Brez’s rant. All of the sudden I could see the theory that I wasreading about in the principal’s qualification course I am taking come to life. I had trouble understanding what it treatingpeople with respect looks like until I read about how Ed Bell treated Margaret Elder. He let her know she needed to change,gave her the option to transfer, and acknowledged she had some good points such as empathy, even though he did not thinkshe fit in with her staff. He could have just kept the negative evaluation he had written and fired her. With a concreteexample of how Ed did his work in the context of Taft school, I have a better idea of what choices I would make if I ever getthe chance to be a principal.B. Quinn, principal writes:Finally a book that gives people a full picture of what it is really like to walk in a principal’s shoes. What really appealed tome is that Wolcott did not judge Ed Bell. He just showed how Ed went about quietly doing his work. It was affirming tosee that Ed make mistakes just like the rest of us. I think the book shows the human element of being a principal that youdon’t get in most journal articles or university courses. I hope the book shows current principals how to demonstratecompassion and caring. Our job involves more than increasing test scores and writing school improvement plans.S. Alcott, parent writes:Brez’s rant has made me sad. My children’s principal is never in the building. I just thought that was just the way it was.Now I know what we are missing. Maybe I will go to a parent council meeting now. I know what kinds of questions to ask.
ReferencesEscher, M.C. (1956). Bonds of union. Retrieved Nov 29 2010 http://www.mcescher.com/.Gato, J. T. (1992). The seven lesson schoolteacher. In Dumbing us down: the hidden curriculum of compulsory schooling, pp. 1-21, Gabriola Island, B.C., New Society Publishers.Greenfield, T. (1993). Organizations as talk, chance, action, and experience. In Thomas Greenfield and Peter Ribbins (Eds.), Greenfield on educational administration: towards a humane science. (pp.53-74), London: Routledge.Gronn, P. (1983). Talk as the work: The accomplishment of school administration. Administrative science quarterly, 28(1), 1-21.Weick, K. E. (1976). Education as loosely coupled systems. Administrative Science Quarterly, 21, 1-19.Wolcott, H. (2003). The Man in the Principal’s office. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press.Young, J. & Levin, B. (2002). Understanding Canadian Schools. An Introduction to EducationalAdministration, Third Edition. Scarborough: Nelson.