The following text might be seen as offensive. Please be advised, that it is the author’s personal opinion and experience that is being portraited. If you are a Principal and you would like to register a complaint (My British friends, you know that is THE worst for the next Ofsted inspection…), you might have the wrong job. On the other hand, if you feel an involuntary smile creeping to your mouth and your head starts uncontrollably nodding… well, you actually might have the wrong job.
The topic I am tackling is a bit of a taboo as Head teachers are supposed to be the most altruistic species on the planet. But remember, this category is called HUMOR & courage after all.
„Ms Jansen, what does a Principal do?“
So, after Uma, the lovely but intense 2nd grader in London had put me on the spot I had to find my footing and actually started to ask myself – what the heck was I doing…
Of course, there is something like a job description and let me tell you, there is not enough space right here to put half of it in this text. Over the months, working there I condensed it to:
„As a principal, you have to be Mother Teresa, Gandhi and The Terminator in one person and if possible all at the same time.“
So who applies for these headship positions? People with severe schizophrenia? Egomaniacs? Idealists? Sociopaths? The type of person who always saves the world? OO7? Masochists or even Sadists?
And the even bigger question is, why would someone want such a position? For the money – JOKE! The social status? For sure not, nothing is more embarrassing than the moment when you meet a good looking, nice and interesting man and when you tell him what your profession is you can literally see how his mind switches to porn-mode and he pictures you with a cane in your hand.
Once I realised that it is all about expectations, I changed my tactics and most of the time I avoided to talk about it until I had established, that my topics of conversation are not limited to my work. I talked about the fact that I used to live in Japan, studied political science and did some really interesting things in my life. Interestingly enough in that case, once I disclosed that I was a Principal, the interest ceased nearly immediately and I was able to have a normal conversation.
Yes, the elephant in the room, I get it… Why did I become a Principal? The short version (this could be a story in itself): I had the opportunity and took it. It was a new school, everything was possible and I liked the challenge and the money, I thought.
I grew into the position, more or less and I think I made a difference – to some extent – because I did not come into the position the traditional way. Which made me a very nontraditional holder of the office. Coming from an educational background, where schools are not governed by a Head and a Deputy and so forth, I had none whatsoever experience with hierarchies and to be honest, I always despised them and challenged them, mostly unintentional at the time. And because I challenged them I constantly found myself being promoted. Normally into positions I had no formal qualification for so I just went with the flow.
Now, you might think, that it is irresponsible of whoever made me a Principal to give me the job but I say: wrong, big time!
EDUCATION HAS TO CHANGE
Please do not misunderstand me, I fulfilled my job as a principal and I would say the 80% – 20% rule applies. 80% were good work, and I am not letting anyone contesting it, as the growth of the school I worked with in my first Headship position speaks for itself. The other 20% are the ones that finally wore me down, but that is yet another story.
Education has to change, that is neither new nor fake news, it is a fact that has been discussed in Germany since the 60ies of the last century and has been subsumed under the title „Bildungskatastrophe„.
But how can education change if the people who work in it are being trained in such a way that the system basically is a perpetuum mobile? The answer is S L O W L Y. Too slow for the challenges ahead. Yes, again, no new news, it is being talked about a lot and thousands of projects across the globe try to break through this barrier.
So why do I think I have something relevant to say? Because I contest the idea of traditional leadership! By the way, I contest it as much as I contest the idea of a self-governed school by a college of teachers. In my opinion neither structures of capitalism nor those of communism are working because both neglect and negate a key factor in in our entire life….RESPONSIBILITY.
I know you expect me to elaborate … and I will, but for the time being, I will leave this as a cliff hanger and invite you to start your own thinking process.
Why do I call a blog entry that ends with the word responsibility „Taboo“? And what exactly is responsibility to you?
Leave your comments and inspire me!