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At the Friday night house party the teachers were sitting around with margaritas, talking about (what else) school.  Finally one of them said loudly, “Well, you know what they say:  Those who can, teach.  Those who can’t teach become administrators.  And those who can’t administer become superintendents.”

The room fell silent as I flung my salt-rimmed margarita glass at her head.  OK, OK, I only considered it Margarita  briefly.  The room did fall silent, however (maybe people were scared that I would fling the glass).  People were looking at me expectantly, so I said in the measured tones of a veteran superintendent, “I think you should have stopped a little earlier with ‘Those who can, teach.’”

Recognizing her faux pas, but undaunted, she said (by way of apology), “Well, I have known some superintendents I’ve liked.”

“And I’ve known some teachers I liked,” I said.  One of them was my sister, an outstanding special education teacher and the reason I happened to be at this gathering while I was visiting.  Uncomfortable, one of the other teachers said by way of explanation, “We’ve had some trouble with our superintendent.”

I smiled and shrugged.  “I’m on vacation,” I said.

Conversation resumed.  Sheesh, I thought. If you think the job’s so easy, give it a try.  Go to school for a few more years for your certificate, do an internship, and work your way up the organization so you can give up your tenure to take the top job, where you get to deal with people like you all the time.

Then I had to stop and admit to myself that when I was a teacher, I said lots of things like that woman had just said – just maybe not to the superintendent’s face (maybe there wasn’t the opportunity).  My colleagues and I were full of suggestions for the administration.  We were slow to praise administrative action, quick to ridicule. We all had better ideas than we thought the principal or the superintendent had.  Of course, what I knew then about the job of the superintendent wouldn't have filled the glass I held securely in my hand.

I remembered how incensed I was when my principal told me that as a teacher I didn’t have the broader viewpoint necessary for school-wide decision making.  Nor did I have the responsibility for it.  I was pretty sure that no one at this gathering really wanted to hear that, so I sat quietly and debated the wisdom of a second margarita.



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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.