The best principals are those with whom you can disagree

It's our monthly Blogapalooza night and the topic is to write a letter to someone with whom you've had a disagreement. Easy, I'll write to one of my former principals.

Dear Jim,

Hey there, it's me, Kathy! You were my principal and I was the 8th grade Spanish teacher. Remember all the good times we had? And some of the not so good times? I wanted to write you centuryabout those.

I taught 35 years and had 7 principals. One has passed away, one went to jail and the other four weren't all that memorable. When I think of my principals I think of you because you were the one with whom I had the most discussions and some were pretty spirited. Those years have taught me that the best principals are those with whom you can disagree.

What I really liked about those disagreements is that you let me disagree. You weren't afraid of a strong woman, you didn't shy away from someone questioning you and you seemed to enjoy the debates. We both honed our thinking and our arguments.

I think a principal who lets a teacher speak her mind so freely is a confident person. He has thought about his own position and has a reason why he's doing what he's doing.  He's not afraid that he might be wrong, he's even willing to entertain the concept.

MP900341522I also liked that when we debated you weren't threatened by me. You seemed to grasp that a teacher who is stirring things up with the boss, is getting the kids stirred up and excited. I was intellectually alive enough to challenge you in a battle of wit and words. You shared the vision that kids learn best from teachers who are intellectually alive themselves.

Did you get truly irritated with me upon occasion? Shockingly, yes! Was I pretty darn upset with you from time to time? Of course I was! But we respected each other at the end.

Remember the time a child brought in a video project to my class and somehow the tape went too far and everyone saw some very adult footage? You supported me, you told the parents to call you and you called me at home to let me know that you had my back. You told me that because I made my classroom real and brought the world in, sometimes things would happen. You didn't even tell me I should preview all videos. You wanted my class to remain vibrant where kids were learning.

We had some classic arguments. Once we were "talking" about meetings and I made a comment about why have meetings for information that could just be put out in a memo. You retorted then don't come to them! And I didn't. Oh that was the best argument ever.  But now that I think about it I wonder if you didn't make that happen. I was a single mom with two kids and I was overwhelmed and you always supported me. When I remarried you suddenly noticed I wasn't attending morning staff meetings and back I came.principal-office

Only once did you pull your power and just commanded me to include lessons on geometry. Seriously, you must have know that was the goofiest initiative ever! So I made up some silly worksheets with circles and other geometric shapes drawn on them. (I had one geometry class in 1970 and I didn't do very well in it.) Basically it was a comparative adjective worksheet in Spanish.

You came in with your assistant when we were going over the worksheet. The kids sensed me stiffening up a bit and so we only spoke in Spanish about circle sizes and the color of squares. And I fooled you both. Or did I?

I would have rather made you see it my way, that ISAT test or not it was crazy to try to have the Spanish Department include geometry lessons each month. I knew you had to carry out district policy and you knew I would find a way to sneak around it.

You were the best principal I ever had and the one with whom I disagreed the most. In doing so, I think we made each other better at our jobs. I miss those arguments.

I miss teachers being allowed to be creative, feisty and practice the art of teaching.

We should get together some time for coffee. I haven't argued a difference of opinion in a while.


Your favorite Spanish teacher

I quilt and blog about it now and don't have lively intellectual disagreements with too many people any more! Rats!

But my calm life does make me Sew happy!

Want to see what else I think and dream about? Check out my Facebook page. Like the page, check the get notifications and join the conversation! If you want to keep reading my blog, you can subscribe. To do so, type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. That's all, you're done. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

I loved my teaching days. Here's another post about parent teacher conferences.

Leave a comment

  • ChicagoNow is full of win

    Welcome to ChicagoNow.

    Meet our bloggers,
    post comments, or
    pitch your blog idea.

  • Advertisement:
  • Meet The Blogger

    Kathy Mathews

    My passions are quilting and sewing. Add to that French, Spanish, books, swimming, travels, new restaurants, yoga and chocolate and you have me. All of these are best shared with family and friends. Except for chocolate, don't touch my chocolate. You can email me at

  • Recent posts

  • Monthly Archives

  • Categories

  • Follow on Bloglovin
  • Follow me on Pinterest

    Follow Me on Pinterest
  • Latest on ChicagoNow

  • Advertisement: