Tribute to a non-tech principal

Tomorrow marks the last day I will get to serve under the principal at my school, Mr. Connelly.  We arrived at JMSO together six years ago and earlier this year he announced his retirement.  He has a been a wonderful mentor to me and a guiding force for our school the last six years and I will greatly miss him.  Under his leadership our school progressed tremendously from a place with fairly regular discipline issues and marginal academics to a top tier (in my opinion) educational provider for young men at-risk.

Mr. Connelly did pretty much everything at our little school.  He arrived at 5:30 am daily and greeted the first arrivals by 6:15  so that their parents could make it to work on time.  In the winter he shoveled the snow on the front walk and in the spring he trimmed the bushes.  He supervised breakfast and lunch every day, drove the school van for field trips, and filled in for our after school tutoring program.  In addition to all his principal duties, he taught 5th grade math and served as a pseudo athletic director for all the extra-curricular activities at our school.  As part of recruitment, he does a home visit for every student that attends our school – no small task.  Mr. Connelly continues to do all these things and much more, but one thing he doesn’t do is technology.

While he’s a master two finger typist and gets around email all right, I don’t think he’d be able to say much of anything about Web 2.0.  To some in the edublogosphere this is practically a mortal sin.  “How could an effective administrator not embrace technology?,” they ask.  The answer to me is simple – technology has nothing to do with the effectiveness of an administrator.  Mr. Connelly was a great principal because of the relationships he built with our families and the atmosphere of excellence he fostered among the staff.  He gave us freedom to try new things and set school-wide goals that led to innovation.  Without those relationships and openness to new ideas, our school would be a very different place.  So next time you read someone lamenting the lack of tech-spertise among administration, keep in mind that a web-savvy, web 2.0 expert isn’t necessarily going to create a change for good – the relationships have to come first.


6 thoughts on “Tribute to a non-tech principal

  1. Mr. Man – Very well said! The importance of personal relationships in teaching and learning can never be over looked. They are the key to maximizing your effectiveness as a teacher. I begin the school year sharing with our staff: Your #1 responsibility the first month is to MAKE CONNECTIONS AND BUILD RELATIONSHIP with your students. When this takes place with a student you are on your way to a very successful year with that individual.
    I have recently started blogging. Really just sharing items that have touched me. May I quote you on my blog? I appreciate your blog efforts! Rich Cantrell

  2. YEA. You’ve totally got your priorities right. I will argue the same is true for non-tech (older, veteran) teachers – they are STILL great teachers, because KIDS come first. Technology is a tool. Kids are the heart of education.

  3. I agree with your point about non-tech veteran teachers. During my first years of teaching, the veteran teachers (all very low tech) were always the ones with the best advice and perspective. Even though I’ve been teaching about ten years now, I still look to the teachers who’ve been doing it for multiple decades for advice and insight into the students we teach.

    You make a great point – the kids come first.

  4. He sounds like a wonderful man and administrator. Web 2.0 (or whatever is coming next) doesn’t make the man/woman. The interaction with students/parents/teachers/stakeholders makes all the difference. An understanding of Web 2.0 could make these relationships deeper, but only if there is a solid base to begin with. People come first, that is the whole reason web 2.0 exists, to connect people. I think that we would do well to remember that it is about the connections, not the technology.

  5. He sounds wonderful. The head of my school campus isn’t very techy either. But he is very supportive of tech and asks what the needs are so that he can make sure they are met. He is also wonderful at building relationships with teachers, parents and kids, providing opportunities for every child and getting the best out of everyone. He will do anything for us, so we will, not surprisingly, do anything for him!

  6. Mike
    A nice message here about the ways that an admin can support innovation without being fully immersed in every nuance of it.

    This is key: “He gave us freedom to try new things and set school-wide goals that led to innovation.”


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