I recently got flagged for a job that I’m sure paid a good salary with good benefits, for an institution I’m guessing has plenty of resources to help someone succeed.
I probably would have applied for it if I had any interest in or qualifications for being an elementary school principal.
If I had gone into education, I probably would have pursued being a principal by now. It’s easy to imagine starting young somewhere, getting my career established and then deciding by my late 40s to take a crack at running a school.
I think I would have been a social studies teacher, if that’s what they still call it these days. But whatever the name, it was my favorite subject in school — as I look back now, probably because it felt like a series of stories, one after the other.
And social studies had all the cool videos. When I was in sixth grade, our teacher showed videos European countries that made them all seem so exciting at a time when going to Europe seemed as likely as going to the moon.
However, it being the Cold War and all, our teacher had to remind us whenever we saw a video from a country in the Soviet bloc that the videos were produced by governments to make their countries look as good as possible, and that we did it, too.
When I was in high school, our teacher would show us videos from business management writer Tom Peters. I don’t think the other kids though much of them, but I couldn’t get enough.
What can I say? I was a nerd.
I also think it would have been fun to coach baseball, even though I have no idea if I would have been any good.
* * * * *
My favorite teacher was Mr. Flynt, who was one of my social studies teachers in high school, along with my baseball and basketball coach.
He wasn’t for everybody. He knew his way around a wisecrack, both giving and receiving, so if you didn’t hit it off with him (or he with you — he once defined “personality conflict” as “you have a bad personality and I don’t like it”), he probably wasn’t going to be your style.
But we hit it off. For all of the sarcasm, and I could give as well as I got, even as a teenager — maybe especially as a teenager, since I hadn’t figured out that whole “filter” thing yet — I knew he cared about me and believed in me.
When I played baseball for him, he didn’t just put me at first base and second in the batting order, he made it clear that I was a leader on the team and let me lead. It meant a lot.
I was in a class that mostly hit it off with him. He was a huge Red Sox (we all have our flaws) and Celtics fan in the days when one of the local TV stations would show Celtics games periodically.
After the game, the station hosted a call-in show, and “Don from Schenectady” was always the first caller. We all waited up for those calls so we could dissect them the next day as he walked into class.
That is, when we weren’t goofing him about his clothes. He had, shall we say, a “colorful” wardrobe.
Toward the end of the year, he wheeled the TV and VCR to the front of the room, saying he had a video for us to watch.
The video was of a baby, his baby. He and his wife had just had a son, and he brought the home video.
Like I said, we hit it off.
By the way, that kid is in his 30s now, but the less we talk about that, the better.
* * * * *
Senior year meant voting on the yearbook dedication. I knew I was going to vote for Mr. Flynt, as were a bunch of my friends.
He wound up winning, and I was asked to write the dedication. Not that I wasn’t the best person to write it, because I was, but it was still a big assignment for a 17-year-old.
One day after school, I sat in my bedroom chair with a pen and a notebook and started jotting down ideas — which is actually more than I do for blog posts now, because I turn over most of my ideas in my head.
My first couple tries didn’t work out, because I was trying to write a “traditional” dedication. On the third try, I started to feel something coming on, and by the fourth draft, it just flew out of me.
I knew I had nailed it.
Then, as now, that’s a great feeling.
“He is the teacher, whose knowledge and teaching ability successfully imparts ‘pearls of wisdom’ on his students, while inducing their opinions.
He is the entertainer, whose outspoken, opinionated manner, humor, wildly colored clothes, and ‘affectionate sarcasm’ relaxes his students and makes them wonder what he’ll do next.
He is the man more than willing to stay after school for review, extra help, or just to talk.
He is the person that one sees in the hall, who always offers a ‘hello.’
He is the coach, whose tempestuous manner obscures his knowledge and his willingness to help with skills.
He is the man who builds confidence by reminding one of their true abilities.
He is Mr. Flynt, and the Class of 1990 proudly dedicates this yearbook to him.”
I’m not crazy about most of my old writing, but I’ll say that still holds up.
* * * * *
Mr. Flynt and I lost contact over time, so I didn’t know that he had become a high school principal at one of the larger school districts near where I grew up.
I used to do a lot of work in that district, and a previous high school principal made it clear he wasn’t interested in talking to me or anyone like me, so he and I never had a conversation.
Dealing with Mr. Flynt presumably would have been a lot easier, although I don’t know if I would have been able to keep the proper professional distance.
I only learned about him being a principal because of an article a friend sent me on Facebook about him setting up rooms where Muslim students could pray during Ramadan.
Although there was a certain amount of “So this is what he’s doing now,” I guessed my friend shared the post with me so we could discuss it through the prism of our vastly opposite political beliefs.
I wasn’t particularly interested in that kind of discussion, but even though I didn’t know Mr. Flynt’s politics — it wasn’t something I remember him talking about, and we didn’t ask — I absolutely saw it as something he would do because he thought it should be done, whether people liked it or not.
* * * * *
So why didn’t I pursue teaching?
Basically, I didn’t think I’d be any good at it.
I was a writing tutor in college, and I was good at it, but that’s a one-on-one setting.
I’ve had managerial jobs through the years that required me to teach and coach, but that was either one-on-one or in small groups, and I didn’t have to be fully engaged with them all the time.
As a teacher, though, you deal with dozens of students every day, and you have to develop lessons that help all of them learn, from the smartest ones to the ones struggling to understand.
And as long as they’re in your care, you’re responsible for all of them at all times.
It’s a huge responsibility, one that I don’t think I could handle.
Now imagine being a principal on top of that, responsible for academics and managing staff and student issues throughout an entire building. Kudos to the people who are cut out for it, because I’m pretty sure I’m not.
* * * * *
All of this, of course, calls the question of how I got flagged for a job I have no interest in nor ability to do.
I think my old pal Al Gorithm — last seen sending me a “personalized concert lineup” of shows I mostly wouldn’t want to see — also lends his talents to the website designed to keep you “linked in” with jobs and professional connections.
The summary for the job listing gives nine preferred skills for potential applicants: educational leadership, early childhood education, Kodaly, teaching, leadership, professional learning communities, administration, daily operations and interpersonal skills.
My profile matches exactly zero of these … although I do think I have leadership, administration, operations and interpersonal skills, although not in a way that Al would recognize from my profile and not enough where I could actually be an elementary school principal.
However, there was one area I matched.
I have a master’s degree.
Mind you, it’s not in education, but the ad calls for a master’s degree from an accredited college or university, which I have.
Problem is that it also seeks “graduate level courses in school administration and educational leadership,” so if you have a master’s in something like political communication or underwater basket-weaving, you’re probably out of luck.
But hey, if you want to shoot your shot, go for it.