Delusions of grandeur and student success fantasies

This comment was left on my blog recently:


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I have a personal opinion that many teachers become administrators not to help more students, but because it is easier to ... preserve student success fantasies and their own delusions of grandeur as social influencers that simply can't be maintained in the face of the constant reality of the classroom experience.

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How is your school?
Admin response: Great!
Teacher response: well....

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I asked the students in our superintendent preparation program (nearly all principals) to respond with some thoughts. Here's what one said to the other members of the cohort:

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Ever had a teacher like Arnie in your building?

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When good teaching and effective school leadership align, teachers like Arnie feel like a duck out of water. I am sorry that Arnie feels compelled to paint with a broad brush that all administrators are hapless lemurs (my words, not his). These "Arnie-like teachers" truly represent an all-too-large segment of the teaching and non-teaching population.

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Truthfully, his circumstances may be the reality for far too many teachers and schools. His circumstances and experiences, however, are not mine. They are not the circumstances of my staff, my students, or my community. I know in my soul that the 13 of us in our cohort entered into school leadership positions for reasons that could not be any further from the reality Arnie describes above. It must be hard for him to get up in the morning. I feel sad for him and his students. I feel outrage.

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I read a recent Education World article which discusses, anecdotally, why teachers chose to become principals. This article, and the stories it tells from principals in the field, is a better match of my personal narrative. I strongly sense it is a better match for your personal narratives as well. I think so highly each of you.

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Essentially, we lead for the same reasons we teach; we find ourselves compelled to make life-changing differences for each student we serve. Our strategies and responsibilities are different. We acknowledge a level of commitment that is met with a differentiated compensation package. Our families bear the burdens that our professional obligations demand. Yet we lead because we are compelled to lead; to make the work of our staff, the lives of our students (each and every one individually) and their parents, and the fullness of the communities we live in, better. In some places, we call these schools exemplary. In others we call them first class, or world class education, or 21st century.

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In the end, what gets us there is expert-level practitioners and high-performance leadership. "Delusional." No - data driven. "Fantasy?" No – fact. "Easier?" Give me a break.

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I do agree with Arnie on one thing, however. Social influencers do challenge all of us to be resilient, responsive, and rigorous. At least that is how I took his meaning.

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Arnie (and his students) would be better served by thinking through the fullness of the basis of his unhappiness. Arnie, walk - no run - to your home computer and click on mywantads.com. Surely there is a second career out there for an erstwhile, want-to-change-the-world teacher who deserves a chance to make a difference in life. "Delusional?" I hope not. "Fantasy?" It's up to you. "Easier?" As easy as getting up each morning to go to a job that you feel passionate about.

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Other thoughts or reactions?

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