What Do School Administrators Have In Common With The American Idol Judges?


Simon, Randy, Paula, and Kara have decided the fate of millions of wanna be singers, yet has anyone ever heard any of these judges sing? Well, we heard Kara's pipes during her little showdown with bikini girl last season, and Paula convinced us she was Straight Up, Forever Our Girl, but what about Simon? And Randy? Did they ever have any hit singles? I think Randy played guitar for Journey? But can either he, or Simon sing at all? Randy's obsessed with contestants' pitch issues. He's even coined his trademark phrase: "It was a little pitchy for me, dog!" As a true coach, why doesn't he or Simon sing so contestants learn the difference between pitchy and not so pitchy renditions; then we will know the truth about whether or not these judges are actually qualified for the job...which brings me to my analogy.  

It seems to me that lately, there is a mad rush to leave the classroom to become an administrator, a baffling phenomenon, quite frankly. These novice administrators with less than three years in the classroom enter the role of administrator inexperienced and unfit for the task of overseeing a school, an entity which is as complex for these neophytes as it is for those American Idol rejects to understand why they weren't chosen to go to Hollywood! This less experienced breed is comparable to the newest American Idol judge, Ellen Degeneres. They are what I like to call "The Ellen Type". Like Ellen, they lack experience in the field. They may have the best intentions, and may be talented individuals, but they lack the skills and hands-on knowledge necessary to make worthy critiques for other beginners or veterans. Ellen is a great entertainer, and this newbie administrator may be a real go-getter too; however, what wealth of experience will Ellen draw from when she evaluates the contestants' singing ability. In the classroom, how will the inexperienced administrator evaluate the teacher who takes risks versus the one who teaches by the book? How will "The Ellen Type" administrator serve as a mentor and a leader to both the seasoned teacher and the beginner? Basically, the essential question is what will “The Ellen” bring to the table?

"The Randy"..."The Randy" is the administrator who provides vague feedback. Like the contestants who may be unsure of where they stand with Randy, teachers often do not know where they stand when it comes to "The Randy" administrator's comments or requests. "The Randy" may be friendly, but he is inarticulate and lacks the eloquence in speech, and in writing that you would expect from someone in a leadership role.  "Randy" types will love you one day and hate you the next. "Randies" may have earned many accolades and carry a reputation for being experts in the field, but you wonder about their talent when they were in the classroom because "The Randy Type" never seems to take the stage to demonstrate his own so called expertise.


While Randy has experience, but we're not sure if he was as good as he or others claim, “The Kara” has proven her ability, and she's got a track record of success in the field to prove it. Real life Kara is a songwriter and a music producer. Technically, though, she’s hasn’t been a singer in the public eye. Like Kara, “The Kara Type” administrator has been in education for years, yet she’s been out of the classroom more than she’s been in it. In essence, Kara is the equivalent of the administrator who provides theoretical advice and examples, rather than practical solutions. The Kara Type” focuses too much on educational research because she has spent her career reading educational theory, but not necessarily discovering if it works in practice. Also, real life Kara suddenly joined American Idol. “The Kara Type” has a tendency to jump on the bandwagon of educational trends. And like the real Kara, she will take offense if you point out any of her flaws. Real Kara challenged bikini girl to a singing showdown to upstage bikini girl at last season’s finale.The Kara Type” won’t stand for her teachers to disagree with her opinions about educational theories, and she will become defensive just like the real Kara if you suggest she does not know her stuff. Unlike Kara, she won't challenge you to a singing duel; she might try to  “upstage” you to prove she's smarter than you, and she will definitely force you to analyze inordinate amounts of student data to find patterns and correlations so you can later spend hours designing lessons to bore your students enough that they will want to listen to William Hung! “The Karas” are smart and knowledgeable leaders, but they have allowed theory to overshadow the truth of the classroom reality. "Karas" are poor listeners, and have a know it all attitude undermining any potential to do good. “The Kara Type” comments may be impractical, or idealistic because this administrator has worked outside the classroom far too long ago, or like the real Kara who has never been a "real" singer, they began as an "Ellen", and turned into a "Kara" over the years.

Paula...now here is one of my favorites. “The Paula” is the controversial administrator who makes everyone cringe whenever she opens her mouth. “The Paula” is a popular leader, but mostly because people can’t wait for her next gaffe. She is not necessarily well respected in the field. Everyone speaks about “The Paula” in hush tones at school regarding her latest faux pas, and everyone speaks loudly about “The Paula” at home as friends and family are shocked to believe “The Paula” is the leader of a school. “The Paula” is careless with confidential information; her reputation precedes her, and the powers higher than she are secretly plotting to remove her without scandal. There are allegations of drug abuse and sexual harassment, but when you get to know “The Paula”, she is actually a kind person and would have the potential to be an effective administrator because she is a charming, people person. If “The Paula” could only balance her personal and private life and learn to filter her speech, everyone would realize she's not a Cold Hearted Snake. Her Crazy Cool attitude makes her like the real Paula, one of those administrators whose contract you never thought would be terminated.

Of course, I saved the best for last! “The Simon” is one administrator to contend with. He's a self-centered, pompous, pretentious SOB who thinks he was God's gift to teaching then, and God's gift to the administrative world now.  He's not well liked, and he's feared. Like the real Simon, he gives backhanded compliments, but he has his pets who worship him hoping he will make them his protégés. His leadership style is brusque, and standoffish.  “The Simon’s” feedback may demoralize, and demean you if do not have a thick skin.  Although he expects perfection, he will be late to meetings, which may unnerve “The Ellen” assistant principal. “The Simon” is unprofessional in his demeanor and tone.  He is impatient, demanding and expects you to not have a life outside the field.  The paradox of “The Simon” leadership style is that he's right most of the time. His feedback hurts, but he has an impeccable eye for recognizing talent. If “The Simon” likes you, consider yourself lucky to have earned his vote, at least temporarily allowing you to "stay" off the teacher blacklist. 

The Empowered Teacher...Out!

5 comments:

Diana said...

I love the article! I can certainly identify with "The Paula". You and I have worked for a "Paula". So what do you call a cross of "The Simon" and "The Ellen"...cause I think I'm working for one of those now. A mixed breed? But of what kind?

Donna Quillen said...

Great analogy! Just as you compare the judges to administrators, the teachers are much like the auditioners. Many are so deaf to real talent because all they have heard is their own voices. Teachers need outside influences to offer continued challenges to try new methods and to take risks when a proven technique isn't working. Teaching is a microsm of the corporate world in that a classroom is a continuous management of up to 30 individuals at one time for 90 minutes 3 times a day. 90 personalities, with the extension of family members...need I say more. Good teachers are amazing managers, entertainers, psychologist, writers, organizers, and mediators, even psychics.Whew!Not to mention the hours. Thanks Ary, you are enlightening the world. Education is very complex. Many of our leaders are just not that capable of seeing the big picture, often they only see the political photo shot.

John Spencer said...

I've experienced all of these types of admin at some point (we have a really high turnover in our last school). I love the analogy!

Miss Teacha said...

Awesome, post! I'll be sharing it on my twitter.

The Empowered Teacher said...

Thanks for your responses!

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