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I want to change the viewpoint of what a school administrator is. Pop culture has a funny way of distorting education and making it into a movie that confines teaching to a set of bad or misguided kids being saved by one particular teacher with noble intentions. Somewhere along the way, both the kids and the teacher learn something about one another and in the end, everyone is hugging one another and the film is the feelgood movie of the year. The reality is that it takes a village to raise a child and it takes multiple teachers to shape the lives of a student. Unfortunately for me, very few administrators get leading roles in films. When they do get a cameo, they typically give principals a bad name. Case in point, Richard Vernon, the principal from the 80s cult classic The Breakfast Club. Here you have a guy who went out of his way to torture high school kids because he wanted to be on a power trip. To be honest, what the kids did to get in that Saturday School is pretty minor compared to the things I see in my office on a daily basis, but nonetheless, it is another classic example of how the media prepares kids to question authority and to make out school principals as idiots wearing leisure suits they ripped off from Barry Manilow.

On the flip side, you have Joe Clark from the movie Lean on Me. He provides the authority figure that a principal needs to be, but he lacks compassion for his staff which makes education possible. He is a likeable character, but the entire movie is spent on an us versus them conflict between administration and staff.

Why do I write about this you might ask? The answer lies in the fact that if we are to change education, we need to change the way it is viewed. One of the biggest problems with education is that everyone is an expert because everyone has experience with it because they attended at one time. This can’t be said for a whole lot of other professions. People make judgements about schools based on their own personal experience they had. The problem with this is that after they are out of school, they don’t need to go everyday, so they can be haphazard in their judgements. Real change needs to occur at the building level and not from decisions made on high in Washington.

So I ask you this. What was your high school experience like? How was your high school principal viewed? In your ideal world, what kind of school do you want to send your own child to?

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