Power, Wealth and Serving Humanity
Let’s start positively by pointing out some universally known people whose power has been diverted from an “Ivory Tower” to helping humanity. I speak of Bill and Belinda Gates, Warren Buffet and ellen De Generes. Warren encouraged millionaires and billionaires like himself to give away a vast amount of their money to help the disadvantaged of this world. The Gates family joined him. ellen and Portia work tirelessly for many charities and ellen does not live in an Ivory Tower she works to make this a better world. She signs off her show with the words, “Be Kind to Others.” To work for any of these people would be a world of growth, individualism and happiness. Lucky employees!
Ivory Tower: The Casualties Beneath
I am looking at a selection of the population and it is one that I am familiar with – education. I have worked under two incredible Principals in Canada and both went on to become Superintendents and Directors of Education. One was a man and the other was a woman. On the other hand, I have worked under poor administrators who had no leadership or social skills. Their heavy handedness was oppressive to teachers and to students alike. Dwayne Dyer would call them the ‘ducks.’ They make constant noise, mostly about themselves and their “vision” of education. It is a dull and oppressive vision. Dyer compares the “ducks” to the ‘eagles’ that fly high and encourage their staff and students to do the same.
The Eagle Principal/Head
In my travels recently, I heard of a Principal that wants her Grade 9 (Year 9) high school students to give several months to interacting with children with special needs and learning disabilities. These are affluent students. When parents questioned her, she stated that along with the academic studies she wanted to give them the gifts of compassion and service to others. This would equip them with social skills as well. The parents saw her eagle vision and now everyone soars. Eagle Principals are little ego. At staff meetings, they simply state what things on the agenda cannot be changed or debated; these are either government or board rules. The rest of the agenda is open to discussion. This gives power to the teachers. No principal has a grasp on everything. Good principals listen to their staff. A happy staff makes for good student learning.
The Ivory Tower Principals
Unfortunately, they are in the education system. They have found ways to impress board members by intellect, publishing documents, co-ordinating curriculum. They “present” themselves as “enlightened” beings – a gift to the education system. They have a bull-dog grip- nothing or no one will stand in their way. They want to move on to larger schools and perhaps to superintendents or privileged positions at the board level.
What exactly is the Ivory Tower?
The Ivory Tower’s foundation is the ego. It dominates and pushes a person who is self-serving. This person truly believes that they are ‘special’ with gifts that should be rewarded. Each step of their pushy, hard and unprincipled climb seems to confirm that they should be elevated. The ego gets encouraged each time important people or institutions confirm this talent. With this ego-driven elevation, they walk over people, diminish them in order to feel superior and make sure that no-one challenges them. The ego cannot take challenges – it fights back to keep its tower and closes the drawbridge on the way. Teachers and staff cannot access this ‘superior’ principal. Ideas are largely dismissed unless it brings praise and attention to the principal. The Ivory Tower principal wants to blemishes on his or her record. Teachers must discipline even the most outrageous behavior or children with opposition syndrome. Often teachers are not allowed to phone parents to reveals problem issues. There are NO problems in this school.
Changing the Tried and True Ways
The assertion of power makes the Ivory Tower powerful and impenetrable. A good way to diminish teachers’ psyches is to change familiar rules and ways of doing things. Now comes the new rules – even off they are impractical – they must be informed. Naturally, they fall within the board’s rules – which are often given to interpretation by the principal. This ego driven principal often uses the word “My school.” With these words go the “I” word, rather than the collaborative “we.”
Consolidating the “Fake” Me.
“Image” is important to the Ivory Tower principal. With the additional money usually comes an expensive car. Personal appearance is important – clothes are well-cut and expensive. Old office furniture is usually replaced with a desire to claim the office as his/her own. An expensive desk and chairs are ordered at the expense of the tax-payer. Parents sit opposite the principal. (A friendly principal does not usually sit behind a desk, but places a set of chairs away from it).
If a teacher challenges the Ivory Tower principal by referring him/her to the union, or confronting him/her at a staff meeting, the odds are that revenge will be exacted. It will not be obviously blatant, but school trips may be cancelled or that teacher may be assigned a different grade level next year. If that teacher is enthusiastic about a particular team sport or a drama club, the principal will simply say something like – “the students need new blood,” or “your team has not won the finals, I think it’s time for a different coach.” These changes are within the power of the principal. If that teacher has a difficult class and an educational assistant or helper, that helper may be withdrawn for the need of another teacher. Any teacher who has challenged a principal can be assured that a transfer to another school will be blocked. There have been incidents where a teacher who confronted an Ivory Tower principal was not represented by the school’s union representative for fear of reprisal. The lone teacher faced a closed-door meeting with the principal and came out of it in tears.
The Bully Must Be Confronted
The Ivory Tower principal counts on power, intimidation and revenge in order to stay in power. Like the school yard bully, few want to tangle with this dark person. However, it takes guts and the entire staff to write a petition and to get parents on board. It seldom happens. Karma may not hit that Ivory Tower, but emotions and ego-doubting does. The occupier of the Ivory Tower is in reality a frightened and lonely person. Each day, there is the fear that someone will remove the foundation and the tower will tumble to dust. To prevent this, the principal has to watch every word and action of the staff. The grip around staff member’s neck must be tight and hateful actions must evolve from a soul that has degraded itself from it’s true purpose – which is the serving of humanity. There is always the ego that states – “Don’t become one of them – if you show too much caring and compassion – they will take advantage of you and you will lose your power. Demand their respect!”
Once the Eagle steps out of his/her car in the school parking lot, kids gather around him/her. The Eagle listens to school team results, admires a new toy, and tells the most delinquent kid that his teacher has noticed great things. The office staff greets the Eagle with news about home and their kids. The older school kids make announcements. The Eagle comes on and says positive things and names teachers and kids who have done great things. The Eagle may tell a short warm and fuzzy story or a joke. The Eagle always includes in his announcement the words “our school.” The Eagle encourages good work habits, no bullying and words like “respect your teacher and all the hard work that he/she does for you every day.”
The Eagle tries to get to after school team matches and gives teachers notice when he/she is popping in for a chat. The Eagle makes sure that it is not a surprise visit/inspection. The Eagle will arrange a time and place for such an evaluation and this wise and humane person will discuss what he/she is looking for and will ask what lesson will you teach. The “pop in” class visits are there to get to know students and to speak favourable words to the teacher. The Eagle wants to show the students that he their classroom teacher is part of his team and that he/she is valued and will be supported. The Eagle is willing to deal with kids who are upsetting the learning of others and get board help or enlist volunteer parents. He welcomes parents and meet with them on a regular basis. They are part of the Eagle’s team. Usually the school’s overall marks are high. Why wouldn’t they be? But even in an inner city school where families are economically deprived or are new immigrants with language problems, the Eagle will go batting for their school. In this case, the Eagle is not concerned about the “image” of the school or the “image” of the principal. Marks take second place to a happy teaching environment – the marks will improve in such an environment. They may not be as good as the neighbouring school, but the Eagle, teachers and staff go home with a good conscience. They have served the most vulnerable the kids and parents.
Leadership Encourages Leadership
If you are a teacher with the Eagle soul, please consider becoming an Eagle. The “ducks” do so much irreparable damage. And to teachers – stand firm with the ducks – and if you can’t be an Eagle in front of your Duck principal, be an eagle in your classroom. In the darkness of the duck environment, light a candle, spread your wings and soar.
p.s. I have learned a lot as a teacher in schools and have worked with the ducks and the eagles. For my own sanity, I was lucky to have come across two great teachers – Wayne Dyer and Stuart Wilde.
Students sadly passed away in 2013, but his wisdom is beyond reproach. He speaks about the Ivory Tower and the need to serve humanity. If you get a chance read either book – and if you have done so, I know that you are an eagle. Be an eagle – soar and take others with you.