Our high school has a prinicipal and superintendant who have a very controlling managerial style. For example, every copy request must be signed by the prinicpal before it goes to the copy room...every request for PTO funds must be approved by the prinicpal before the PTO can see it...every budget item for extracurricular activities like the play must meet the principal's approval (even if the overall budget is way below the allocated amount).
This is so frustrating because it breeds an atmosphere of fear and mistrust.
Do any of you have to operate under this kind of Big Brother control, and if so...how do you handle it?
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Oh yes! ...did have, anyway., and I feel your pain. Teachers would come in the next day and see the icons rearranged on their computers, and then disciplinary action against them followed for something they had written in an email. The principal would deny having signed certain things, so teachers had to produce copies, etc. No one could go to the restroom even if another teacher were watching the class! Ours is right-to-work state so there is virtually no federal recourse, and a non-union state although it has a teachers' organization. However, the administers can belong to the same organization, so there is only so much protection for teachers. Needless to say, morale during the reign of some of the "czar" administrators sunk to a low, low point.
In these days of people "failing upwards," so many administrators have only the minimum years of teaching experience, but they have a connection who has helped them move in the ranks. Their insecurities are manifested by this dictatorial attitude, obviously. So, with the financial state of most places comprised and the Stalinesque administrators--not to mention the recalcitrant students and helicopter parents hovering over, times are indeed hard for teachers. All they can do is focus their after-hour thoughts on those lovely children who want to learn and the happier moments of the day. And, be thankful to have a job in these hard times, and wait these people out. Chances are they will not be around too long.
Wow!!! I cannot relate- my principal and super are nothing like that. Now when it comes to budgeting, yes...I have to cross all of my 't's and dot my 'i's. But that is simply because I sponsor many activities that require monies the school partially provides. Outside of that, we are really left to our own devices. I could not imagine working in an atmosphere like the one both of you have written of. It would definitely breed fear and mistrust.
I do not think that an atmosphere like that would be one which would help the educational process at all. I teach literature. I use a lot of printed copies (I am trying to cut back!!). I know that if I had to get a signature on every little thing that the material I was teaching would suffer given I would not want to go to the office for a signature each and every time.
I have to agree with post #2, I would hope that those who make you feel like that would not be around for long- I am sure you are not the only one who feels like this.
When I've been in systems like that, I've done two things. First, do your best not to have to request anything. The fewer times you have to deal with the system, the less it annoys you. Of course, that's not possible beyond a certain point. So that brings up the second thing, which is to use your experiences as a way to feel more empathy towards your students. When I was in situations like that, it made me much more aware of how controlled students feel on a daily basis. It made me, I think, more understanding of my students and may have helped me do a better job of relating to them.
I have a very good principal, but he is my 6th, and I have had some rotten eggs, let me tell you. But the kind of atmosphere yours has created is indeed poisonous to a staff and school. It sounds as though the administrator has developed a "me against them" philosophy, which is puzzling at best. I don't know how anyone can truly enjoy a career where that is the point.
While all of us can relate to silly and cumbersome administrative policies (as they exist in any big organization or company), I tend to try and do whatever is necessary to get them to let me close my door and teach. That's the part of the job I enjoy anyway, so I don't like to expend any energy fighting their petty control measures. I don't think I could make it 30 years otherwise.
However, if you believe that what the principal is doing amounts to harassment or unfair labor practices, then round up some of the membership and go to your union. There is a grievance procedure, as well as contract negotiations where perhaps some of these things could be addressed.
It's miserable to work in an environment of distrust, and in my experience it stems from a need for power. If there is any organization in which a staff should be working collaboratively it is a school, and those who see it as their personal domain of control are not in the "kid business." Unfortunately, since these are also the people who can keep boards and parents from knowing how things really are, it's often difficult to get rid of them as quickly as anyone would like; my experience is that there is a time when the truth is known and enough people are disgusted by the way things are being run. Hang in there--there are plenty of administrators who will appreciate what you do and will not feel the need to sabotage your efforts to assuage their own egos. Hoping you get one soon, as much for the students' sake as for yours and your colleagues'.
I teach in one district and serve on the school board in another. Being a school board member has been a real eye-opener, and the single most important thing I learned doing it is that the board members have no clue what is actually going on in the buildings. Your anal, controlling administrators are probably being stroked for having the reputation of running a "tight ship", while the board has no realization of how obstructive these policies are, or how much of their teacher's valuable (and expensive) time is being wasted on such nonsense.
If you can come up with a creative way to raise your board's awareness, emphasizing the wasted dollars and talent aspect, you might be able to start a groundswell of change. Meanwhile I agree with #2 to an extent - know that you can survive this, and be thankful for the job. Also, I think it would be prudent to do some networking, take a few courses, get a resume and portfolio together, and perhaps explore a professional online network like LinkedIn.com. Chance favors those who are prepared, and a super job without these stresses could be waiting right around the corner.
In 25+ years of teaching, I have only had one superb principal. I may be a bit biased, but he hired me as a teacher fresh out of college, and rehired me after I had left for a year. He went on to become one of the highest paid superintendents in the nation. All of the rest of the principals were mediocre at best. At least one was incompetent (a poor teacher and bad coach, he was demoted to a county administrative desk but later rehired as a principal) and should never have been promoted to such a high level. Another principal I worked under hated men and had no respect for male teachers. Yet another made many promises to his teachers and kept few. There is no doubt in my mind that there is just as high a percentage of bad principals as there are bad teachers. Sadly, teachers serving under such a principal have little choice but to deal with them or move on to a (hopefully) better place.
I think most teachers have experienced something like this micromanaging. I used to have a line manager that insisted on knowing everything that I did which made me really feel that she did not trust me or my judgement. It was very hard to work under, but in the end she had to take stress leave which gave me a lot more freedom! Unfortunately, I think the advice many other editors offer is true. You either have to swallow it somehow and press on or leave and look for another job. Every teaching job is going to have its stresses, so maybe trying to focus on the positives of your job may help?
Can you and other teachers from your school present a united front and ask to try some new ways of doing things, based on patterns being used at other schools in your district? If you can find another administrator's method of organization that allows easier access to the copier, would a group of you be able to request a trial of that method in your school? If your principal can talk to another administrator about other approaches, maybe s/he would be more willing to try letting go of a little of the control.
Unfortunately, some of the situations you mentioned are somewhat justifiable by the principal as part of controlling the budget for the school. As money gets tighter, it does become critical to track how much paper is going through the copier, etc. However, it sounds like there are more teacher-friendly methods of accounting than what your school is experiencing.
Grrrrr. That's so frustrating. One of the colleges I teach at is VERY much like that. English faculty is not allowed to make a single copy without approval from our office. That can be a real (and unnecessary) problem when you have to do something quickly, something that doesn't need to be done in triplicate.
I have another example from dealing with my daughter's school a couple of years ago. My daughter has autism, and a good way to get her to cooperate is to promise her either a piece of Laffy Taffy or a Tootsie Roll at the end of the day. HOWEVER, because her school had a "no candy" written policy, they refused to make this concession. It had to be written into her ARD in order for the reward to be granted. How silly.
This was in junior high. At her elementary, they had a much more relaxed understanding. The principal, who I loved, was all about "Better to ask forgiveness and permission."
For me, in both these situations, it was too hard to battle beauracy. I don't have as many cool things to share in my own classes, and nothing gets done for my daughter unless it's in ink.
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