Wednesday 13 November 2019

Diary of a schoolteacher: Why would anybody want the job of deputy principal?

E Grade

How can we determine the level of effectiveness in our school management? I love it when my colleagues get all hot under the collar discussing the shortcomings of our bosses.

The principal of our school sees himself as a kind of president (in the Irish sense rather than the American), a chief executive who deals with mysterious correspondence from lawyers, the board of management and the department.

This, it appears, takes up most of the principal's time and woe betide anyone who disturbs his demanding and vital work.

Every August staff meeting, His Excellency hands down dire warnings, hinting at the Da Vinci Code-level of complexities that arrive on his hallowed desk, with the result that nobody dares question the great oligarch.

We just forget about him till the staff Christmas party. The dirty work of interrogating kids, phoning parents and roaring out windows at gurriers fighting in the yard belongs to the principal's official flunkey, the deputy principal.

The job of the DP is to determine the subtleties involved in deciding the different levels of punishment for telling a teacher to 'feck off' or 'piss off'.

The DP has the added role of being the person we blame for everything we don't like about our work. Why anybody would want that job is beyond me -- and I don't mind telling anyone who'll listen that as far as I am concerned you might as well give it to a chimpanzee, for all that can be achieved in today's schools.

Fifteen years ago, it was different; we had a fantastic DP, Mr McTurmerick. He insisted that pupils finished every sentence addressed to him with 'Sir' and none of this 'Yeah', 'Whah'?' or 'Whatever!' that is standard today.

When McTurmerick walked into the classroom they sat up and shut up.

I really admired him but because he was so good he soon moved on to School Principal Heaven -- a girls' boarding school in a posh suburb. After that, a succession of new DPs quickly came and went, most of them being old pals who had been together on the staff and union reps for decades.

A few of them had been useless as teachers, unable to control their pupils or teach much beyond the basics. This sounds harsh but we can now admit that Ireland specialises in not using the best of our people, just the best connected. Although school inspectors come and go for Whole School Inspections, writing up and publishing reports on the intricacies of a teacher's working day, they somehow fail to see this boy with his head stuck in a locker, that girl climbing out of the window during class and the media studies teacher smoking in the car park with students.

Not like in the UK where the feared Ofsted inspectors rate a school's academic record and standards of behaviour. Shape up or shut down.

Start at the top, my inspection friend, knock on the boss's door, ask a few pungent questions and get the ball rolling.

Irish Independent

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