It’s OK to Have Feelings. Really.


There is an interesting discussion taking place at PrincipalsPage.com.  Mr. Smith (assuming that is his real name) argues that principals should not let their feelings get hurt on the job.  He believes that “A school administrator who gets their feelings hurt at work is obviously…. new or about to find a job in a different profession.”  He continues on by writing  “My daily schedule goes something like this. Drive to school and turn off car. Go into office and turn off cell phone. Sit down and turn off feelings.”

Wow!  That’s heady stuff.  What Smith is saying is that to be a successful principal, one needs such thick skin that jabs, barbs, and insults will never penetrate and cause hurt feelings.  It’s the Sticks and Stones philosophy of running a school.  Turn off those feelings, and don’t ever let another person’s comments bother you at work.

OK, I’ll admit that this was a typical PrincipalsPage smart-ass post, and I highly doubt that Smith, or whatever his real name is, really meant what he wrote.  He never takes himself seriously which is why I like reading his blog.

What is a little disconcerting, however, are some of the comments people wrote about this post.  They really took him seriously.  “Check your feelings at the door” wrote one commenter.  Another person wrote “without thick skin and the ability to turn emotions off at the door administrators would be lost.”

I could not let this go without adding my 2 cents.  This is the comment I left on this blog post:

I agree that we administrators need to have thick skin to survive the demands of our jobs – but only to a certain degree. True, there is no way we can make everyone happy. But, if we make decisions that are child-centered, we can live with the criticisms.

However, I want to warn all of those who commented above that I disagree with “turning off your feelings.” Don’t get a “feelingechtomy” as soon as you become a principal or after the first parent is angry with you. If you do, it will begin to creep into other aspects of your jobs. We need to be sensitive, caring educators, not cold, unfeeling machines.

There are reasons why people yell at us, why kids are mad at us, and why we are criticized. A sensitive person will look for the underlying reasons and the hidden agendas. A person who has turned off his feelings for the sake of self-preservation is at risk of missing what others may need in terms of help or attitude adjustments. This is the kind of person who becomes cold, jaded, and insensitive in other areas of life, as well. Those are not desirable qualities of an effective school administrator.

The esteemed author of this blog is the king of tongue-in-cheek, and that is what I enjoy about his posts. His reply to me will probably be something like, “Chill out, Dave, I was just joking around a little.” I hope that is the case.

Kelly, over at Educational Discourse, posted about the same topic.  He wrote a very tongue-in-cheek comment at PrincipalsPage, but he gets much more serious on his own blog.

My wife is a compensation consultant at a large company where she determines how much money people should be paid.  I am a school principal.  We work with people’s salaries and with their children.  We like to joke that we work in the two areas where people get the most emotional – their money and their kids.

So, as we as long as we make decisions that are right for kids, we can live with the occassional criticism.  Just remember, it’s OK for principals to have feelings.  Really.

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2 thoughts on “It’s OK to Have Feelings. Really.

  1. Hey Dave. Good post. Sometimes it is necessary to poke fun at what we do since, if we take ourselves too seriously, we can be overwhelmed by the responsibilities that are given to us. I have enough trouble realizing I’m the parent of 7 children and the responsiblity that goes with that never mind be parent-in-lieu for the students in my classroom and in the school.

    I read @principalspage for the same reason, because it takes a rather funny look at what is a very serious job. That’s good. My response was not serious as it just carried on with that theme that sometimes people seem to think that I have no feelings and they can do what they want. I so enjoy reading the variety of blogs out there because of the fact that many are taking a serious look at education. But some do an outstanding job of reminding us that we need to be careful that we don’t become too self-absorbed. We do have a job filled with laughs and chuckles and we have to remember that.

    As for the other commentors, I don’t know what or why they said what they said. I know that mine was outlandish enough that I hope no one takes it seriously! Thanks for the thoughts Dave!

  2. I guess there has to be a differentiation between “parking” all your feelings and the ability to depersonalize the comments made to us out of anger during our day. I know how much I count on my feeling side to interpret concerned parents or stressed kids – so often those feelings and intuitions are necessary in order to derive what they really mean from from the words and tone they are using. It would be so much more difficult to make the myriad of decisions that assail me all day if I didn’t have my serious depth of passion to draw on! As has been stated – if we keep doing what matters for kids, we’re ok. But the passion and feelings give me the energy and the information from others to really follow the value laden guideposts put in place by our learning community. Practice at ‘de-personalizing’ has allowed me to remain sane and calm in the eye of the storm. It is frequently displaced anger we receive and that is often uncovered in the conversations. Thanks for the thought provoking comment!

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