A few years ago I wrote about interview questions I'd want to ask if I ever needed to interview at another school. Some were real questions and some were the questions I'd want to ask but would obviously need to be phrased differently...
One was a question about how an administration deals with an angry parent. Do they support the teacher or do they support the parent? How do they mediate the situation? In my post from 2008 I'd written about a scenario as a joke, but in actual practice it's not so funny. I recently had a friend who teaches at another school get called into the Principal's office only so a parent could yell at her. The principal sat there calmly while the parent just attacked the teacher for various reasons. As the parent ended his rant, stood up and walked out the principal looked at the teacher and shrugged. "Just let it roll off your back, he needed to get that out. Don't worry about it, we know you were in the right."
Having a principal say that you are in the right doesn't really do much to make up for the fact the principal set up a scenario that allowed you to be attacked. Who wants to go to work everyday knowing that at anytime they could be yelled at for doing the right thing? I personally would lose a lot of trust in my principal if I was set up in a meeting like that.
Recently the administration at the think-tank passed my interview question with flying colors. An upset parent, a busy time of year, students with spring fever, the final days of state testing- all cumulating together to create the perfect storm, and yet I have never felt more supported by my administration. I was proud to work at the think-tank where administrators take the time to listen to parent concerns along with teacher concerns and mediate the best they can. I walked out of what could have been a meeting that drove me straight out of teaching knowing that I was teaching in a place where the children come first above all else. No administrator decided the quickest and easiest way to get the situation out of the way was to just let the parent yell, or to ignore the parent and let the teachers deal with the situation on our own. Instead our administration took the time to thoughtfully consider where everyone was coming from, but more importantly, kept the needs of the child in mind.
Being an administrator is difficult work, and I frequently hear from teachers at other schools about how their administrators decide to handle problems by not supporting the people in the school who have the most contact and make the most impact with students. Recent media seems to encourage this "get the teachers" philosophy- administrators need to straighten up those bad teachers, get them to shape up and ship out. It's easy after watching movies like Waiting for Superman to jump on the bad teacher bandwagon and immediately assume teachers are in the wrong whenever you hear of a conflict within a school. It takes a thoughtful, conscientious administrator to take the time to consider all aspects of the situation and act not on what is the easiest solution, but on what is the best solution. From stories I hear there are not many of those administrators out there.