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Administrators Are Supposed to Supervise Teachers

Every time I hear about irresponsible teacher behavior in the classroom, my first thought is, “What was he/she thinking?”

My second thought is, “That behavior certainly doesn’t do the profession any favors.  Thanks a lot.”

My third thought is this: “The only way stuff like this happens is if the teacher is pretty sure no administrator is going to pop in on her classroom just to see what’s going on any given day.”

This time it’s a high school science teacher at Zepherhills High School near Tampa Bay, Florida.  According to the Tampa Bay Times, Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp, 47, decided to show the Pixar movie “Up” the Friday before the April spring break and the Monday after spring break because she thought attendance might be low.  So even though the movie has nothing to do with the subject she’s paid to teach, she wasted two days of instruction, supporting the absent students’ claims that “we’re not doing anything anyway.” But that wasn’t actually the problem.

Cone of shameIn the movie, the dog has to wear a large plastic collar used to keep dogs from licking themselves after surgery.  In the movie it’s called “the cone of shame.”  Ms. Bailey-Cutkomp wanted to “redirect” behavior among some of her ninth graders, so she thought putting dog collars like this on at least 8 of her students over a two-day period in April was a great idea.

Of course, when her principal came in and saw the collars … oh, wait!  That never happened.  School officials discovered the problem when students took pictures of kids wearing the collars and published them on Facebook.  The teacher stopped making kids wear the collar when she learned that a mother had complained about it on Facebook.  So it turns out that no administrator ever had to leave his or her office to find out what was happening in Bailey-Curkomp’s classroom.

The superintendent is recommending that Bailey-Cutkomp be fired, and she will meet with the School Board at a date to be announced.  In a letter to the teacher, the superintendent wrote, “You said that you intended for the collar to be ‘innovative’ and ‘related to real world situations,’ but that did not work.” 

I have to wonder if Bailey-Cutkomp’s principal received a similar letter from the superintendent asking how a teacher could show movies for a couple of days and make kids wear dog collars and we learn about it on FACEBOOK?  Supervision isn’t just visiting the classroom a couple times a year for the dog and pony show, folks.  It’s being in the halls, dropping into classrooms, and making sure that everyone knows you spend a lot of time being out and about. 

Bailey-Cutkomp may lose her job and maybe she should.  Board member Steve Luikart, a retired high school assistant principal, said eventually the district would have learned about the incident because “Students talk. Parents make phone calls. The photographs just made it a little quicker.”

Imagine how quick it would have been if her principal had dropped in during his/her daily trek around the school.  


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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.