Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Dear Sucky Administrator

Dear Sucky Administrator,

I am sorry for the choice of words but you know who you are and you are pretty sucky at your work as an educator and specifically as an educational leader. 

You are the administrator who gives the rest of us a bad name. You are the administrator who perpetuates the "Us vs. Them" feeling that permeates many a school community. You are the administrator who creates a "Fortress School" and sends the message to families that you are not interested in collaborating, sharing or being transparent about your practices. You are the administrator who spends more time in the office pushing papers and doing "important" work instead of being in classrooms and interacting with students and staff. You are the administrator who does not value relationships with the people around you and is only focused on numbers, appearances and making yourself look good. You are the administrator who doesn't foster a sense of trust in your school. Basically, you are sucky at your job because you have lost the focus on what matters most in education - KIDS! 

Fortunately, it is not too late to turn yourself around and go from sucky to at least halfway decent. Here are some things to avoid in your attempt to exit "sucky-ville"...

1) The work of educating children is not about you... it is about creating a space where the educators are empowered to do what is in the best interest of EVERY child!

2) Do not take yourself so seriously - it is not all about you! Yes, take your work seriously and be passionate about what you do for kids but remember to smile and laugh - especially at yourself!

3) Get out of your office and talk to everyone around you! Talk to the secretaries, the nurse, the custodians, the teachers, the teacher aides, the bus drivers, the families and most importantly, the KIDS!

4) Stop isolating yourself and being so guarded and start sharing and being more transparent in your practices! If you are doing what is in the best interest of KIDS then you can be open about it and stand behind your actions and then being transparent should come easily. Remember, be a successful educator is about relational trust and building social capital!

5) Stress the learning and not just the leading or teaching! Is effective leadership and instruction (building-wide and within classrooms) critical? Yes! But, you need to be focused on the learning... the learning of your KIDS... the learning of your staff... the learning of the family members... and your own learning!

6) You are not a "fixed" entity and you have not reached the pinnacle! You still have a lot to learn and do... you have still have a lot to try and many things to fail at within your work... you still have to enhance your craft... you still have to get better and remember that you are a work in progress! And, if you have a chance, become a connected educator - it will change your world!

7) Stop implementing zero tolerance policies and rules based on one incident or what could go wrong! Every situation, child and incident is different so treat it that way. Treat mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow and get better. For example, when a staff member or child or even you uses social media inappropriately don't ban social media; instead, use it as an opportunity to teach a lesson about digital citizenship and developing a positive digital footprint.      

8) Stop putting up road blocks for your staff when they want to try and implement new things that might fail! Be the remover of road blocks... not the creator of them! Trust your staff and their expertise and get out of their way... unless they need your support or perspective and then offer it in a non-judgmental way!

9) Stop using Faculty Meetings as an opportunity to share information that could easily be shared in a memo, email or quick announcement. When you gather the staff, make it worth their time because it is precious!

10) Remember, your work as an administrator is not about you! Your work as an effective administrator is about advocating for the needs of those around you and always doing what is in the best interest of a child! Be the voice for those without one.

11) And lastly... model what you expect of those around... model what you would want for your own children if they were in your school!

So, I am sorry to call you out sucky administrator, but there are way too many of you out there in the world of education! The time has come to change and get better because the current landscape of public education is not a positive one and we need leaders who will fight for what is right for our many educational communities. 

Please understand that I know I have many shortcomings myself and plenty of things I am sucky at too but I will continue to work on those because I try hard each day to avoid becoming a sucky administrator!

Tony Sinanis 


  1. Brilliant!!! - But seriously, you don't need to apologize for anything... you are correct on every point. Keep up the good work.

  2. Sometimes "sucky" is the only word that works. I agree with Claude: No apology necessary.

  3. I like 6 & 11, but LOVE/HATE 7 & 9. Great list!

  4. Brave post, my friend. I would add #12. Stop sabotaging work of others thinking your work and time is most important.

  5. Tony, this post is spot on! Also agree with Lisa's suggested #12.

  6. Woohoo! Great Post, Tony! Sometimes change requires us to call attention to the truth. It also reminds me to keep improving my "sucky" areas as well!

  7. Fantastic post! Amazing how using the negative can push us all to greater positive leadership and work. I'm looking forward to your "sucky teacher" post--I want to learn. Thanks Tony. You have the charisma and heart needed to lead well. I'm learning a lot from you. Have a great day. - Maureen

  8. Tony this is hands down the single best blog post I've read in a long time. The points you've articulated are what so many people think but so few have the guts to say, let along post for all to read.

    I agree with your points and if I should one day transition into a formal administrator position I will uphold the positive ideals that you and so many are demonstrating.

  9. My 1st read of the day = GOLD. Love that I can substitute 'teacher' for principal and it makes sense. Applies to us all!

  10. The problem with this post is the title. Rarely, if ever, does anyone who is a sucky administrator realizes they are a sucky administrator and will not realize this post is for them to read. May I recommend, Dear Best Administrator Ever!

  11. Unfortunately, there are too many schools in which this rings too close to home. We need to do a better job of leadership development - at all levels of the system (including preservice).

  12. Sucky??? What's wrong with sucky? Spot on! Well said!

  13. Wow. I am so glad to work in a district where my administrators are the opposite to everything posted above. Sorry that you are in such a challenging place, but there are places that exist that are not completely dysfunctional.

  14. Barbara makes a good point. I fear you are preaching to the choir (see #6, non-connected educators). There are also the issues of administrators who are never there (in meetings on or off-campus) or who appear to listen, say the right things, then never follow-up. If you're a principal, be present, be a principal, not a figurehead on the way to somewhere else. Any recommendations for truly bringing these types of issues to principals who could stand to make improvements?