Saturday, April 27, 2013

Failure: A Necessity

Yesterday I read a post by Pernille Ripp that resonated with me and forced me to reflect on my actions over the last couple of weeks. Pernille's post, Teachers Have Feelings Too, described her reaction to something one of her student's wrote and her reaction to the content - this is worth a read. Pernille's reaction spoke to me because as someone who pours their heart and soul into their daily work as an educator, when things don't go as planned next steps can be challenging.

Although my experience wasn't exactly like Pernille's, I did drive into work feeling like a failure - a failure on different levels. First off, I feel like over the last two weeks, thanks to New York State testing in both the areas of English Language Arts and Mathematics (and some other "stuff" that was going down), I have devoted the majority of my time being an administrator... you know - the guy who doesn't leave his office very much, who pushes a lot of paper around and believes that this is what it means to be an effective principal. That was me... the paper pushing, office based "old school" principal. And so because I have focused a lot of energy on being an administrator, I have not been a very good Lead Learner during this time and I hate that feeling. I haven't been in the classrooms as much; I haven't been listening to and watching what my kids are learning as much; I haven't been engaged in discussions about teaching and learning with our staff as much; I haven't been in the lunchroom as much as I'd like and I haven't been at recess spending time with my kids where I usually get to talk and laugh with them. Bottom line - I don't feel like I have been doing my job well and that is not a great feeling.

As if that weren't enough, I have been letting my feelings show to those around me... the negative feelings... and that is not a good thing. I feel like Principal 101 says you are never supposed to show any staff members, kids or parents how you feel (especially when you are stressed) - never let them see you sweat and definitely never let them see you be upset or overwhelmed! Well, during the last couple of weeks I have been doing all those things- I have been letting my feelings show on my face, be heard in my words and perceived in my actions. My frustrations, disappointment, exhaustion and stress have come through loud and clear. Although I do typically wear my heart on my sleeve in my role as Lead Learner, I am disappointed in myself for showing the frustration and letting people around me feel that negativity. So, even though I know that no one expects "perfection" and that no one will likely judge me for expressing these feelings, I am disappointed in myself for letting them take control of me! One of my jobs is to remain cool, calm and collected so that I can support the organization as a whole in a logical way through any challenges or obstacles and unfortunately I failed at achieving this goal over the last couple of weeks. Again, not a good feeling.

Now that I am removed from the setting and most of those negative emotions (except the ones associated with the high stakes testing but don't get me started on that again) I have had some time to reflect and I realize that these failures are necessary. They are necessary because they are an opportunity for me to grow, reflect, question myself and come up with a better way the next time I encounter a similar situation. So, my job isn't always sunshine and roses (it is a lot of the time) but what I have come to realize is that these failures, which hurt at times and can be extremely frustrating, are a necessity because they help me become a better Lead Learner, which is always my goal!


  1. I hear you my friend. I to have had stretches where I have been negative and openly critical. I can easily relate. You are correct, "no one expects perfection", but being the lead learner you hold yourself to very high standards. Tony your reflective piece was well said, we're human and we must reflect, learn and grow.

    Thanks for sharing,

  2. Thank you Tony for that honest and insightful description of the role of Principal/Lead Learner. As parents we don't get to see the personal side of the job. Teachers/Principals are expected to leave their feelings at the door, and teach and engage our kids. Thank you for reminding us that our faculty are human.

    And, as always, your drive to learn from situations like these is inspirational. Thanks for being an awesome Lead Learner/Principal.


  3. A timely post here Tony. I feel like I struggle with this every April and May. It is a stressful time of year as we begin to prepare for next year while trying to wrap up all of our goals and commitments for the current year. I always try to remind myself that I have the ability to control the barometer for the school and when I let myself get down and stressed, it somehow rubs off and I see it on other faces. Still, we are human, and eventually things can wear us down. That is also when I find it comforting to know I have a Professional Learning Network I can turn to for support and sometimes just for laughs. So glad you are a big part of mine.


  4. Tony,

    As a teacher that has worked under you, I can tell you this...people love you because you are human, you show emotion, you are passionate about your job, whether it be good, bad, or angry. Your job as a parent reflects understanding and compassion in your work. The fact that you have been upset about the testing and not afraid to voice your opinion has made even more people respect you and understand the strength of your leadership qualities. To err is human and it keeps you very real. "Keep on keepin' it real..."