Retired Principal: “Stop Taking The Joy Out Of School”

Disclaimer: After reading my blog post, Nashville Can’t Keep Whitewashing Its Problem Educating Black and Brown Students, an educator and principal with 30 years of experience responded with 10 things he knows to be true about working with kids and teachers.

Volume and Light unapologetically writes for parents; to amplify specific voices and their plights. However, today I’m pleased to share this principal’s words about working in education because experience and expertise are welcomed here and also for more personal reasons, as it represents the value of a relationship between parent and principal.

This principal led one of my kids’ schools more than 10 years ago and I appreciate that we’re still good.

Although retired, he still consults with organizations that partner with Metro Schools. Because he still walks the halls of our schools, I suggested he remain anonymous and he agreed.


1) Stop treating kids as though they are numbers and treat them as people. As trivial as some people may think, “Kids don’t care what you know until they know you care.”

2) Stop giving kids more remediation and less special interest classes. Use the special interest classes as a way to get kids to see that there is more than reading and writing in this world. If a kid loves music, they will learn fractions. If a kid loves sports, they will learn rules and procedures. If a kid loves art, they will learn to look at the world differently. Stop taking the joy out of school.

3) Stop treating small kids like big kids. Minds and bodies are different at 10 than they are at 17. 10-year-olds don’t need high school schedules.

4) Stop putting leaders in positions that they aren’t ready for. Put seasoned, proven leaders who know how to treat staff and students in the priority schools. Give them more money if you need to but stop putting brand new principals or “unproven” principals in high need environments. It is unfair because it can be overwhelming. Rewarding but overwhelming.

5) Stop giving brand new teachers incentives to go to high priority schools. How about giving the veteran teachers the incentives to stay in the profession?

6) Be wary of teachers and principals who say they use “data to drive their instruction” but don’t have a clue who’s in their classes or schools don’t know what exact standards it is that the kids know (or doesn’t know.).

7) Pick leaders who will give immediate feedback to instructional practices and who actually were good teachers themselves. Stop giving number scores for instructional practices and actually give ideas on how to improve instructional practices.😎 Give teachers time to plan and, especially, plan together. Let them plan off campus if necessary. Show them that you respect the hard work they are doing. The profession is too hard not to be happy.

9) Let kids have recess. There’s plenty of research that says kids need to get away from desks. If they don’t have time to play, they will look for ways to play. It’s not wrong….it’s just kids.

10) Stop focusing on standards and find out what the kids already know. And meet them where they are. If a kid can’t add, teaching division is not going to be successful. Do the right thing and teach the kid how to add even if your principal (or central office person) is telling you to teach division. The “value-added” will come and your principal and central office person will have to admit that you, the professional, know what’s best. Not some reform movement.

3 thoughts on “Retired Principal: “Stop Taking The Joy Out Of School”

  1. Yet you– a “choice” supporter–continue to advocate for sending (black) students to schools where: kids are treated as numbers, special/elective classes are eliminated bc test prep is king, students are overdisciplined, inexperienced teachers and leaders make up the majority of staff, recess is cut bc principals are so “data driven” that they think they need to dedicate every minute of the day to test prep because they do NOT *ever* care or focus on what students already know.
    Listen to this principal- he’s tryin to tell YOU something.

    Like

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