Monthly Archives: November 2015

Don’t Punish People for a Job Well Done


Much of my life has been spent inside of a school and even when I am out of school I find myself drawn to learning as much as I can about education. I have had many roles in education, I’ve been a teacher, department head, vice principal and principal and all the while I have been, and continue to be, a student.

I do a lot of reading about education and many of my conversations with others lead back to education, I guess you could call me an “education junkie”.

In my new role as a principal, I have doing quite a bit of reading about leadership and how to support teachers and staff. I know what I had wanted from my many principals when I was a teacher.

In the school where I spent more than 20 years teaching, the administrators office was a revolving door of people who would be hired and shortly thereafter move on. I sat down one day and reflected on all of the administrators that had gone through our building and I had a difficult time keeping track. If I include the principals and vice principals, the number of people is 17. Over a 22 year span our school saw 17 different administrators! The changes in administration brought a continual change of focus, each new leader bringing with them a new outlook, a new initiative, a new “flavour of the month” while the common core of teachers and staff worked to meet the challenges.

In reading Shelly Rees’s blog post, “19 Things Teachers want their Principals to Know“, she cites many of the things that have come up over the years in conversations with my colleagues. Many of the things that teachers want are the same things that any worker in any field wants from their bosses, things like support, understanding and trust. But the one point that stands out the most to me as I reflect on my own experiences and those of several of my colleagues is fairness. Rees states:

Don’t punish me for a job well done. Just because I am hard-working and capable, don’t come to me to be on every committee and to help solve every problem. It is not fair to give me the difficult, heart-wrenching cases year after year because I do a good job. Spread the workload fairly. “

Oftentimes I have seen the same teachers step up to be the members of committees, the sponsors for school clubs, the teachers who deal with the “difficult” students because… well, “Mrs. X can’t have those students, she doesn’t get along with that type of student” or “We need you to do ____ because you can handle it, while Mr. Y cannot.” Should people who are able to handle difficult situations be the ones who are always assigned to deal with them? Wouldn’t it be better if those people who don’t have the skills required were placed in situations where they could learn these skills? I’ve had people say to me over the years, “Its almost better to do a bad job because then I would get the easier assignment.” This just does not seem fair.

What often happens is the people who are the busiest and the most passionate about their jobs are the people who get called upon to do more, because after all, they are the ones who will find the time. Everyone else is just too busy. This type of leadership can lead to crispiness, the stage just before burnout. When the energetic become tired and start to notice a lack of fairness, they will begin to shut their doors and close themselves off from the excitement they once felt about education. They will continue to do the great job they have always done within the four walls of their classroom but they will no longer step forward to be the risk takers they once were and that we need in our schools. Administrators need to take time to show appreciation, spread out the workload fairly and equitably, provide the supports to those who need to develop and learn new skills and in so doing build a strong team. Don’t punish people for a job well done. The people that you take for granted today may be the people that you need tomorrow.


The Importance of Soft Skills


I have been doing quite a lot of reading, rereading, learning and relearning recently as I attempt to answer the question, “What skills do we as educators, leaders and parents want for our students and children when they leave school. What are the attributes of a successful graduate?

This would be a great activity to do with our school community. Pose the question to parents, teachers, administrators and students, “What are the attributes of a successful graduate?”

I recently reread an article from the New York Times by Thomas Friedman, “How to get a job at Google”. Empowering students and engaging them in a learning process which fosters success in school and life, ensuring that when they leave school they have the skills that the job market of today and tomorrow requires.

In the article, Friedman highlights five attributes that Google desires in its employees:

1.Cognitive Ability

Cognitive ability is not just how “smart” you are, it encompasses your ability to learn and process information. To be able to think creatively and critically, reflect on your work and pivot. To be able to accept feedback as you feed forward.
Leadership is about your ability to step up, step in and more importantly, to step back when necessary.
Humility allows you to understand that we all have something to learn and something to teach each other. To understand that your way is not the only way.  Listening with an open mind fosters trust, sharing and promotes collaboration.
To own your goals, learning and behaviour. To recognize your role and responsibility as you work with others to problem solve.
Being an expert in your field is an obvious asset. If you are not an expert you can make up for that by being curious and willing to learn.
While, not all students are heading to Google when they graduate, these skills can prove quite valuable in an array of career paths.
Ask yourself, if you were asked to list five attributes of a successful graduate, what would you choose?
My personal list would be:
  • Perseverance
  • Resilience
  • Critical thinking
  • Social responsibility
  • Adaptability





For All the Heros and Sheroes



Today is Remembrance Day here in Canada, “the true North strong and free.” A day when we pause to remember all of the people who have given so much for the freedom that we enjoy and often take for granted. I would like to dedicate this blog entry to all of the heroes and sheroes who have sacrificed so much for this great country and to their families who support them through it all.


When he was just a baby,

first learning how to walk,

she held his tiny hand tightly,

not wanting him to fall.

He gently pushed her hand away,

“Let me go Mama, I’ll be okay.”

She did… and he was.

When he was a young boy,

excited for the first day of school,

she held his little hand tightly,

not wanting him to go.

He gently pushed her hand away,

“Let me go Mommy, I’ll be okay.”

She did…and he was.

When he was a teenager,

eagerly going off to college,

She held his hand tightly,

Wishing he didn’t have to go.

He gently pushed her hand away.

“Let me go Mom, I’ll be okay.”

She did… and he was.

When he was a young man,,

proudly going off to war,

she held his hand tightly,

afraid to let him go.

He gently pushed her hand away.

“Let me go Mother, I’ll be okay.”

She did…

Geraldine Lawlor