Disagreeing With the Principal

” The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know. ”  – Napoleon Bonaparte.

Principals cannot please all teachers all the time, and it would be folly for them to try to do so.  They have to base their decisions on what is best for the students and the improvement of the school.  At times every principal will make decisions that some staff members do not like.  These decisions may relate to areas such as daily duties, discipline, curriculum, policy, procedures, or teacher evaluation.  They may also relate to other areas not mentioned here.  Principals and teachers cannot always agree since they have different perspectives and convictions.  Principals must always see how everything fits into the big picture; whereas teachers usually have a more limited view which is generally focused on their specific subject area or area of responsibility.  So, principals will make their decisions and move on.

What should you do as a teacher who disagrees with a decision that your principal has made?  Best practices and related literature suggest that there is some consensus around the recommended answers to this question, which can be summed up in a short list of do’s and don’ts.

DON’TS:

Don’t fight the principal publicly over the decision.  If he or she asks for comments on the decision during a staff meeting, you can state your opinion there, but if you have strong feelings on the issue it is better to go to the principal’s office and discuss your views on the decision privately.  Ask the principal beforehand if you can come to the office to discuss the matter at length.

Don’t try to undermine the principal’s authority or credibility in the school because you disagree with his or her decision.  That will cause serious conflict and division in the school, making matters worse.

Don’t refuse to comply with the decision.  You have to follow the principal’s instructions.

Don’t tell students that you disagree with the principal.

DO’S:

Discuss your objection to the decision with the principal privately.  Use a non-judgmental and impersonal approach and treat the principal with respect.

Be objective and frank.  Give solid reasons for your views and offer an alternative solution.

Cite research or evidence-based data to support your views.  School-based data would be very useful.

If the principal does not change his or her mind, accept it and move on.  Remember that the principal is the boss.

Give public support to the principal’s decision although you do not agree with it, in the best interests of the students and unity of purpose in the school.

Knowing how to disagree with the principal and still maintain a good relationship with him or her is an important skill for any teacher.  Principals generally respect and value teachers who are fully engaged in their various duties and who are willing to assume additional responsibility to move the school forward.  They certainly value and trust teachers who have the courage and honesty to disagree with them, face to face, in a constructive way, rather than undermine them behind their backs, in the staffroom and classroom.

Divergent views and occasional disagreements do not have to result in distrust, disunity, division and intractable conflict in schools.  This negative environment would seriously hinder teaching and learning.  Principals and teachers must create learning communities in which healthy and respectful disagreement conduces to better school performance, and in which teachers accept that when consensus is not possible, the principal has the final say.

  

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