A few days ago I came across a post in an education group which was poking some fun at school principals. There was definitely no malice intended, or any disrespect, but it made me think.

An article from the Sydney Morning Herald in April 2019 has recently resurfaced. Written by Melissa Fyfe and Henrietta Cook, it explored the issue of bullying in schools. But it wasn’t bullying of children that was the problem, it was the bullying of teachers and principals by parents. 

For those of us who came through another time, the idea that our parents would confront a member of the school staff was unimaginable. 

Of course, we didn’t have social media, and most parents would not know the home address of the principal. The examples of parent behaviour in the article are obviously on the extreme end, but as with any extreme, it is indicative of a greater issue. 

Principal training

I remember many years ago, (very many now) when my boys had just started school. The hard working and diligent principal of the school, in trying to manage a situation, said, ‘this is not the job I trained for.’

There is training available now, but that is like the business metaphor of creating the parachute after you have jumped from the plane.

Obviously they need to have spent some time learning the ‘lingo.’ Lingo that seems designed to confuse and obfuscate, rather than discover how the applicant leads and cares for a school.

Many of us who never took on the challenge, whether by design or default, have been known to grumble about our school leaders. Being educated we are usually wise enough not to put it in writing, but I wonder whether that is enough.

I have been thinking a lot about school leaders in the current situation. As teachers and parents worry about the students, and ourselves, principals are responsible for us all. 

It is the principal’s job to manage and care for every member of the school community. They are the go to person for staff, students and parents, often having to offer clarity and guidance when there is none to be had.

When I imagine principals at this time, I think of the Victorian and Queensland premiers. Both Daniel  Andrews and Annastacia Palaszczuk have had to maintain an overt calmness as they manage their constituents. Under the shadow of a health crisis that no one alive has experience of, they have had to face the cameras every day to lead people in a situation that is unknown and therefore frightening. The other premiers have had to as well, but I don’t have the bandwidth to come up with composites. I am merely sharing examples. 

The year 2020

We have had a pretty scary few months here in Australia, the drought was already causing havoc when the fires raged through, then this. This pandemic. 

In the midst of all the chaos are the school principals. It may not be in their job description, but I would take odds that every family being beaten down by constant drought,  every student at risk in a hellish fire season, every staff member worried about what was coming next, is on their mind.

It is worth mentioning that several of the many deaths from this virus in New York were school principals. There is a gallery of the DOE deaths. 

Our school leaders were not elected. They spent years studying and gaining experience before undertaking the responsibility of a school leader. And they are not perfect, they are human just like the rest of us. 

Those who know me know that I don’t approve of blind loyalty to anyone, but maybe our school leaders deserve a better rap than we have sometimes given them.