Friday, August 22, 2008

A Culture of Respect

Many years ago, I taught social studies in a high school. A new principal was assigned to the school in rather unpleasant circumstances, but being Pollyanna, I decided to welcome him and give him a chance. I commented to a friend that it was nice of him to sit in the teacher's workroom every morning welcoming all of the teachers. She gave me THE LOOK.

"Kathy, does he say good morning to you?"

I said, "Well, no. I don't think he likes me."

She said, "He doesn't say hello to anyone. He is checking to make sure that we don't sign in other teachers."


Over the next couple of years, it got worse. He told teachers that he knew they were only there for the paycheck and that only he cared about the students. He refused to talk to some teachers and lavished praise on others, for no obvious reason. Many not so hot teachers left (including me) and many more excellent teachers found better places to be. The school's test scores plummeted from Death Valley lows to someplace I didn't believe existed.

He is not there any more. He is at another high school in the district, working his magic yet again. Mr. Fixit.

The purpose of this is not to exorcise my personal demons (although it looks like I have some meditation to do), but to note that Richland School District One has a new superintendent. I have heard good things about him from teachers, parents, administrators, and community members. Hopes are high.

His job, as I see it, is not just to improve test scores. It is to revamp the entire culture of Richland One.

Although almost everyone gives lip service to "it's all about the children," and the vast majority of employees on all levels in Richland One believe that with all of their hearts, there is a powerful minority that views public education as a zero sum battle among parents, teachers, administrators, and central office. Notice there are no children in the equation.

There are many models (as close as Richland Two) of school districts that empower teachers, administrators, and parents, respecting their professionalism & knowledge while holding them accountable as professionals.

No zero sum games.

No condescending "lessons" in the ways of "these students."

No excuses.

A culture of respect for students, teachers, parents, and administrators.

Because we are all it this together. Because it is all about the children.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bravo. I met the new superintendent and I am cautiously optimistic.