When School Leaders Fail

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When school leaders fail, the discussion turns away from teaching and learning. It becomes bitter, defensive, and combative.

When school leaders fail, negotiations with teachers become less about negotiating and more about pointing fingers and calling names. The people superintendents cheered in the past are suddenly considered overpaid, lazy, incompetent, and opportunistic.

When school leaders fail, education stops and politics begin: Talk of curriculum, technology, and whole child initiatives is replaced with spin doctoring, aimed at convincing community members that everything will be fine once teachers end their strange demands — requests for time to plan their lessons, safe classrooms for our children, and fair compensation for a difficult job that few people want.

When school leaders fail, they waste time game-planning, rather than collaborating and problem-solving.

When school leaders fail, they belittle teachers by spying on them and threatening consequences for any action that might be considered outside the boundaries of their contract.

When school leaders fail, they scour the area for on-call, inexperienced replacements for the teachers they originally entrusted with our children’s lives. “We will continue to teach, with or without them,” they often boast.

When school leaders fail, teachers walk as if on egg shells, terrified that they will lose their jobs, unless they agree to work longer hours, with reduced plan time, fewer materials, and less compensation.

When school leaders fail, they write a story that undermines education, belittles teachers, and inhibits teaching and learning.

When school leaders fail, they make school a business — a cold, uncaring entity that is more about profit and loss than it is about helping kids.

When school leaders fail, they forget why they are where they are. Or, worse, they never really understood the great responsibility that they have.

When school leaders fail, children are hurt and communities are torn apart.

When school leaders lead, everything written here is easily erased, like chalk on a blackboard, and education can be beautiful again.


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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series -- books and other series that provide right-now solutions for teachers and learners. Mark is the author or publisher of dozens of books, including Bestseller Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Join more than 150,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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