What Feelings? I’m a School Administrator.

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This week I was asked an interesting (granted, it may just be interesting to me) question by a Superintendent from another school district.

Do I ever get my feelings hurt?

The answer is of course, yes.

Just not at work.

A school administrator who gets their feelings hurt at work is obviously…. new or about to find a job in a different profession.

After a certain amount of time on the job you move past the whole feelings thing. Crying Man.

My daily schedule goes something like this. Drive to school and turn off car. Go into office and turn off cell phone. Sit down and turn off feelings.

Sometime I mix it up, just to keep things fresh. Like turning my feelings off before the cell phone.

If this makes me sound like a cold hearted bastard, I would tend to agree (sorry for the harsh language… it’s been a long week).

I think on a certain level you have to become resistant to having your feelings hurt.

Are they hurt?


None of us are robots (or are we??). Of course we aren’t. If we were, we would be more organized and wouldn’t be running late all the time.

No one likes to get yelled at, cursed at, or told they are terrible. Or hear my #1 parental response… “I am going to sue you!”

But the job of running a school or district is very simple. It is about making decisions for the good of the group and not just for a particular individual.

This is the challenging part.

And often the cause of administrators’ unpopularity.

Of course when I say often, I mean always. Or at least sometimes. Okay, I mean always.

It is hard enough to raise one child. Or two. Or even three or four.

But as an administrator, you are helping raise hundreds.

The rules are different. They have to be.

My wife and I can’t always agree on how to raise our daughter. So, I can’t expect several hundred parents, step parents, and grandparents to agree with me on what’s best for their child.

When you make a rule for one child it can be less stringent. Like asking them to turn their cell phone off at dinner.

Easy enough.

And when it rings you simply ask them to turn it off or you take it away until dinner is over.

Now, if you have 750 kids, it gets a little more complicated.

You have to make rules that are much stricter. Like taking away the phone for a week when it rings during a Physics final.

Rules for the group are broader. And harsher. And consequently more unpopular.

This is why parents and administrators don’t always see eye to eye.

And why feelings get hurt.

If you have them.

And lucky for me, I don’t.

At least at school.

*Note from the editor in chief (a.k.a wife) – I do not condone the type of language used in this blog post. If the kids at his school only knew how PrincipalsPage REALLY spoke….at home.

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20 Responses to “What Feelings? I’m a School Administrator.”

  1. Ed Shepherd
    on Jan 10th, 2009
    @ 6:24 pm

    Great post. Most people, teachers included, do not understand the need for holistic thinking. It is a necessary evil that gets us yelled at quite a bit, but at the end of the day if I stand on my morals and get yelled at by a parent rather than the superintendent I am ok with that.

  2. Scott M. Carter
    on Jan 10th, 2009
    @ 6:25 pm

    Well said! I was a principal for 7 years and have been a supt. for the last 6 years and you have to check your feelings at the door. Been called many names by students, parents, staff, and teachers.

    Most thank me a year later that I made the choice that pissed them off. They just could not see it at the time. I like to think of it as tough love.

  3. Kelly Christopherson
    on Jan 10th, 2009
    @ 7:42 pm

    You are right. That is why, when I became an administrator, instead of worrying about turning my feelings off, I just had them surgically removed. This way, my feelings don’t get hurt, I don’t have to worry about feelings of regret or guilt or anger. It makes it much easier to do the job in such a way that I don’t have those annoying feelings getting in my way and I can make decisions based on what is best for a student in any given situation. Sometimes it’s tough, like when I have to memorize Hallmark card sayings for when I have those rare moments with my wife but I now have several dozen “phrases of love” so that my wife and children have an idea what someone with feelings would say. In fact, I’ve recently thought of buying some stock in Hallmark as I witness that there are more younger administrators knowing they will eventually need to begin using such phrases themselves.
    Just this week, I’ve had to tell a number of students and a few parents that I didn’t become principal because I wanted people to like me. (It is actually the antithesis of being liked when you are a principal) Thankfully, by having my feelings removed, I don’t even wrestle with the question “Then why did you become a principal?” Obviously, the reason I became a principal was for the incredible cosmic power that I wield.
    You should take the next step and just have those feeling things removed. Much easier and you don’t have to worry about forgetting to turn them off.

  4. Charlie A. Roy
    on Jan 10th, 2009
    @ 8:21 pm

    Well said and a great post! Tough skin is certainly important. I started writing down all the lovely memorable experiences i’ve had a couple of years ago. I’m saving them for a book some day. This year alone I’ve been called: evil, heartless, draconian, a pushover, an mother f$%^er, and my all time favorite a big wiener head. But alas sometimes I’m also surprised by the kindness of others and their capacity to see the big picture as well. My feelings due get hurt but I think I’m pretty good at shrugging it off and not being petty about it down the road when its time to interact with the family again. We are in it for the good of the kids in the end and they’ll get it one day.

  5. Bill Birdlebough
    on Jan 10th, 2009
    @ 8:33 pm

    I just took the SLLA today so reading this today is very interesting. I have run businesses before so I am familiar with not taking things personally. I have come to believe that this trait may be one of a handful that can predict whether or not someone can be successful in a leadership role. Some have it and some pick it up, but if they don’t get it quickly they probably won’t get it.

  6. Jim
    on Jan 10th, 2009
    @ 9:16 pm

    Well said! A thick skin is a key part of the administrative toolkit, much like the walrus’ blubber. Actually, that’s probably because of the staff room snacks and the chocolate on the secretary’s desk. Still helps, though!

  7. Pat
    on Jan 11th, 2009
    @ 5:04 am

    This was a great post! First of all, they couldn’t pay me enough to ever be a principal for the reasons you stated. It was hard enough to always be blamed for my own childrens’ faults but to be blamed for everyone else’s too is more than I want. As a dept. head over 15 adults, I had to be the liaison between my teachers and the administration. It was hard for them to understand that all decisions were not focused just on the special ed dept. The decisions had to be made to make the biggest impact on the largest amount of people. Even though we didn’t always agree with the decisions, we had to learn to accept them, just like our children.

  8. eduguy101
    on Jan 11th, 2009
    @ 6:12 am

    Your blog said it all so perfectly. I was having a conversation with a brand new administrator who was very frustrated and he marveled at my cool exterior and said “Boy, you have a thick skin”. Although that is not taught in any class, never talked about, nbr is criteria for entry to a program, without thick skin and the ability to turn emotions off at the door administrators would be lost.

  9. samccoy
    on Jan 11th, 2009
    @ 11:06 am

    The work of the principal teacher is more global than that of other teachers. While I am very thankful for good administrators, I am always glad that I resisted the pressure to become an administrator. Over the years, the work of teachers and administrators becomes more difficult.
    I agree that an administrator cannot personalize, and I appreciate the reference to Data’s emotion chip. If we are lucky, teachers, students and parents will try to work to resolve conflicts before they reach a level where you or our administrators must “deal” with them.

  10. Dave Sherman
    on Jan 11th, 2009
    @ 1:07 pm

    I agree that we administrators need to have thick skin to survive the demands of our jobs – but only to a certain degree. True, there is no way we can make everyone happy. But, if we make decisions that are child-centered, we can live with the criticisms.

    However, I want to warn all of those who commented above that I disagree with “turning off your feelings.” Don’t get a “feelingechtomy” as soon as you become a principal or after the first parent is angry with you. If you do, it will begin to creep into other aspects of your jobs. We need to be sensitive, caring educators, not cold, unfeeling machines.

    There are reasons why people yell at us, why kids are mad at us, and why we are criticized. A sensitive person will look for the underlying reasons and the hidden agendas. A person who has turned off his feelings for the sake of self-preservation is at risk of missing what others may need in terms of help or attitude adjustments. This is the kind of person who becomes cold, jaded, and insensitive in other areas of life, as well. Those are not desirable qualities of an effective school administrator.

    The esteemed author of this blog is the king of tongue-in-cheek, and that is what I enjoy about his posts. His reply to me will probably be something like, “Chill out, Dave, I was just joking around a little.” I hope that is the case.

  11. micsmith
    on Jan 11th, 2009
    @ 2:19 pm

    Great comment.

    I couldn’t agree more. I almost titled the blog “Turn Off Your Feelings, But Not Your Feelings for the Students”.

    I would have used that but it sounded a little creepy to me.

    It is wonderful that the comments being left are continuing the discussion and adding to the blog itself.

    I am surprised more readers don’t take exception to what I write. Afterall it is just one administrator’s opinion.

    And you are right about another thing. It should never be taken too seriously. Like everyone else, I am just trying to get thru the day, week, and year.

    Thanks for visiting the blog and please come back.


  12. Colin Becker
    on Jan 11th, 2009
    @ 3:20 pm

    Firstly, I really like the way you write – very acerbic, a little like Nelson DeMille’s recent novels (maybe there’s an alternate career for you); and I also like what you say.
    I think in all jobs where you need to organise a group of people, make rules and help them to grow, your feelings need to be ‘checked-in at the door’. Teachers need to do this too.
    There are lots of colleagues who I believe would gain much by reading your blog, though, suggesting this to them may be like your telling them they have bad breath, even if you were merely talking about oral hygiene in a general sense. What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t mean that they need to improve, merely that there would be value in reading what their peers have to say.

  13. Lyn
    on Jan 21st, 2009
    @ 4:56 am

    I love this post. I have been a principal for about 6 months now. And I go through a similar routine each day of shutting down my feelings. I actually referred to myself as a robot the other day in a discussion with my guidance counselor!!

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