Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Principle of the Principals


I've read interviews with teachers and had conversations where the overriding sentiment was how a school's principal is paramount to an educator's success in the classroom.

It's been documented that the number-one reason people leave their jobs is because of their bosses. A cruel or indifferent leader can make or break satisfaction in the workplace.

I'm not keen on directors, principals, teachers or coaches befriending their charges or employees, but gosh, basic decency and a friendly "hello" can go a long way to make a day on the job a pleasant one.

Leadership is a tricky business and I've met more than one school administrator with a desk covered in heaps of paper, and with a longing for more human contact.

They miss the kids. They miss the teaching. They miss inspiring.


When I first approached our school's principal with my idea of starting an after-school program I would call The Shakespeare Club, she knew I was idealistic and somewhat naive, but she didn't try to stop or even warn me. Every time I dropped by her office, Yuri gave me a kind look. She offered tips and said, "Mel, we're going to make a public school teacher out of you, you'll see."

Three years later, Yuri retired and we had a new principal. Oh man. I wasn't ready for a new principal. I needed the rock I'd come to depend on.

I grabbed one of my cardboard fold-outs with a photo collage of Shakespeare Club kids. I arrived in what was now Arlene's office at our school and breathlessly displayed my photos, hoping to impress her with The Shakespeare Club. Flop sweat dripped off my forehead and my hands were clammy. I needed her onboard for me to continue my work. I wanted her approval.


As it turned out, our new principal had fond memories of playing a witch in a high school production of "Macbeth" and she herself had taught Shakespeare to sixth-graders before she became a principal.

Like Yuri, Arlene also dishes out encouragement and supports The Shakespeare Club.

With both of these women, I was judicious about knocking on their doors. I've tried to solve my problems and challenges without adding one more piece of paper to their overburdened desktops, but without their embracing my work, it simply would not have been possible.

Every year since her retirement, Yuri has returned to see the kids perform. I melt every time I see her. It was her "Yes, Mel" that made The Shakespeare Club grow.


CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry
I want to be in Shakespeare club because I want to be imspierd by William Shakespear, I want to learn about William Shakespear, and I want to and act and have fun in Shakespear club.

Today I learned William Shakespear had 2 sisters but they both died in there moms belly.

William Shakespeare was his parents first baby that servived.
—Bailey, 4th grade

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