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Administration, Education, Leadership

Confession of a School Administrator

Please grant me a few minutes of therapy blogging.  For the past twenty-four hours, I have been mulling over an incident that occurred between myself and a parent at an evening sporting event. I am a bit ashamed to say that a significant amount of my reflection has been focused on why the situation wasn’t my fault.  That shouldn’t be the case.  Reflection should be done without agenda, in an effort to identify areas for improvement.

The problem began when the parent approached me, where I was sitting in the bleachers, and began yelling at me about their students failing grades. I had never before met the parent in person and was unaware that the student was failing. I told the parent that a crowded gymnasium (in front of staff, students and parents) was probably not the best place for the conversation. They insisted on carrying on, so I got up and walked with them, into the foyer. Unfortunately, it was one of those “conversations” that lacked reason and I was soon baited into an argument that did not end well.

When I went back into the gym, I noticed the student seated in the stands. I motioned for him to follow me out to the foyer–escorting the student and parent outside of the gym. Once outside, in a semi-private environment, I asked the student to explain what was going on. Then something unexpected happened. The student took full accountability for his grades and the parents wrath landed squarely on the student. I soon found myself defending the student and trying to assure the parent that we would get things straightened out. The ordeal ended with the parent leaving and the student, now in tears, standing next to me outside the gym.  Boy…did I mess that one up. And I have been doing this school administration thing for a while.

Mistakes I made:

  • I allowed myself to get baited into an argument with a parent.  I am a calm person by nature, but I allowed my buttons to be pushed and turned a losing battle into a must-win situation.
  • I did not disengage early enough.  I should have discontinued the discussion earlier, told the parent to see me at school, and then…if necessary…walked away.
  • I brought the student into the situation – my biggest regret.  I was frustrated because I had been yelled at and I didn’t have sufficient information to adequately respond.  Unfortunately, I drug a student into a volatile situation.  It helped me, but hurt the student.  Fail.

Tomorrow morning I am going to begin my day by calling the student to my office, where I will apologize for bringing him into an ugly situation.  We will review his grades, come up with a plan for improvement and then I will swallow my pride and call the parent.  It is the right thing to do.

That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.


About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


8 thoughts on “Confession of a School Administrator

  1. A great educator, teacher or administrator, takes time to reflect and learn from his/her mistakes. You’ve done both of those things. I am a principal myself and I find that with every situation, with every mistake I make, I need to remind myself that I am a human being. I make mistakes. Being a leader, you are always held a higher standard. All you can do is your very best and what is best for the student. Keep up the great work and lean on your PLN in time of need.

    Posted by Jackie | November 12, 2010, 3:27 am
  2. I really appreciate your honesty. We’ve all made mistakes in judgment and the fact that you’re open and reflective about it transforms the situation into a powerful learning experience.

    Posted by Lyn Hilt | November 12, 2010, 4:06 am
  3. Besides bringing the students into the situation which was going to inflame the situation, you did little wrong.

    Few people have the ability to perform flawlessly under such pressure. Whenever, I meet disgruntled parents, I make sure not to defend myself straight away. I listen to the rant, find something I can agree on or sympathise with (in this case, “I can understand how your sons grades are a source of frustration or something to that affect), remind them that you are passionate about helping your child achieve (as you are all the kids at school) and that you are available for future meetings to chart out a plan of attack to ensure that he/she gets the support and guidance required to turn things around.

    Posted by Michael G. | November 12, 2010, 4:31 am
  4. Jeff- Administrators are allowed to be human. The fact that you realized so quickly that you made an error is why you will be successful in the difficult position of school administrator.

    Thanks for sharing this reminder with all of us. I am sure that we have all been there in regards to getting drawn in to situations like this. The most important thing here is that you focused on the most important part of this whole thing…the student!

    Posted by Patrick Larkin | November 12, 2010, 3:34 pm
  5. Thanks for sharing, I identify with your story as I certainly have been there. The fact that you are not happy about what happens speaks volumes to me. It’s about the student finding success, and with you at the helm, I’m sure he’ll find it. When parents are speaking about their child, it is emotional and often they don’t know how to say what they need to say as they are looking and hoping that you will have the answers (because if they did, the situation wouldn’t be happening). The conversation has been started, it can only go uphill!

    Posted by Gail | November 12, 2010, 3:52 pm
  6. So, you’re human. What makes you great is your reflection and your willingness to fix tue situation.

    I have one unsolicited suggestion (so take it for what it is worth). Don’t call the student to your office. Go find the student and take a walk. Apologize in neutral territory, not on your turf. Ask the student if he wants your help to improve; maybe he already has a plan.

    Whatever you do, the student will be better off for it.

    Posted by Larry Fliegelman | November 12, 2010, 4:02 pm
  7. Great advice Larry and great post! Being an administrator is not always positive and there are some days where we are definitely frustrated with whatever comes our way. What I really appreciate about what you wrote here is that you are human (Yes, administrators are people too!). In no aspect of any job does a person ever deserve to be spewed upon, and I am glad that you recognized bringing in a kid into the middle of it does not help the situation either. We are the role models to our students; parents and educators need to be on the same team. However, as role models, we also screw up and need to be able to rectify what we have done wrong. You will show this student that you are willing to do that.

    Great reflection that probably spoke for a lot of administrators.

    Posted by George Couros | November 12, 2010, 9:08 pm
  8. Thank you… a few months after the fact. I am not an administrator, I am a teacher. You wrote, ‘for the last 24 hours I’ve been mulling over…” It is 2:55 AM and I am mulling over as well. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. So… thanks. I find you admirable – and at this hour of the day that bit of collegiality helps. I’m also going to borrow your Martin Luther King Jr. quote and post it in my room.

    There seem to be many demands and initiatives to be attended to… It may sound simplistic or ambiguous but the humanity of my students is my first priority. If I’m attending to that – the other stuff will come.

    Posted by loretta | January 26, 2011, 7:57 am

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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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