You Can’t Win

This originally appeared in the Maine School Board Quarterly and was distributed at a SLED event in 2005.  Read it… and I’ll share my thoughts at the end:

School principals, like all other educators, should expect to please no one.  All too often they are caught on the horns of a dilemma regardless of the action they take or fail to take.

If they report to school early, they have insomnia; if they leave school late, they are slow workers.

If they attend sports events, they are overemphasizing athletics; if they miss an event, they have no school spirit.

If they correct a teacher, they are always picking on someone; if they don’t correct teachers, they are weak administrators.

If they call a meeting, they have no regard for teacher time; if they don’t call meetings, they don’t believe in democratic administration.

If they make a quick decision and follow up, they are autocrats; if they are slow in making a decision, they are indecisive.

If they visit the classroom, they are being nosey; if they don’t visit the classroom, they don’t care what is going on.

If they speak up for some new program, they are on the bandwagon; if they are cautions about change, they are living in the past.

If they suspend a student, they don’t understand children; if they don’t, they are weak disciplinarians.

If they use the public address system, they like to hear themselves talk; if they don’t, they fail to keep their staff informed.

If they attend community affairs, they are politicians; if they don’t, they have poor public relations.

When they attend conferences for principles [sic], they are goofing; when they don’t, they are unprofessional.

If they check with [the] superintendent, they have no mind of their own; if they seldom check, they are assuming too much authority.

If they regularly have a hot lunch, they are not watching their weight; if they seldom have a hot lunch, the school lunches aren’t good enough for them.

If they phone there’s no school on a snowy morning, why did they wait so long; if they don’t call, they must be driving a snowplow to school.

If they are young, they have a lot to learn; if they are old, they just don’t have it anymore.

But take to heart people.  Keep giving your best, for no matter what you do there are those who will always say, “It isn’t the school that’s to blame, it’s the principal of the thing.”


As I started reading the list, I gave a knowing chuckle.  If you have been a coach, you understand this a bit.  If you have been a teacher, you understand a bit more.  If you have been an administrator… you know.  So as I started reading, I just had to smile and laugh.

But then the list kept going.

And going.

I got depressed and felt burdened.  This list was not just some good-natured commiseration over common administrative woes.  This was a list of someone who is hurt.  This is the list of someone who has burned out.

We are not called to popularity; we are not called to be admired.  We are called to lead.  Leading would be a lot easier if everyone followed happily, but that is not the case this side of heaven.  As a result, we face complaints and unpopularity.  Leaders, do not be discouraged.  Our strength and calling comes from the Lord.  Those that serve under leaders, please take the time to encourage them.

I hope that the author of that article found strength and was able to renew his or her vocation and I pray that all leaders would find peace and security in their calling.  God bless us all!


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