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What Happens When a School Head is on a Power Trip?

Some of us may have experienced being humiliated or yelled at along the school corridors or during a faculty meeting by a school head. This school head avoids one-on-one confrontation because he is actually intimidated by you and he needs his allies around to put you in an undesirable situation to prevent you from defending yourself. He/she specifically picks favorites and lets them slide on things that other teachers are held harshly on. These favorites act as moles within the school and report any talk about him/her immediately. If you have experienced or witnessed these difficult situations in your school, you may be working with a power tripper school head.

Here are some behavioral signs to confirm that your school head is on a power trip:

1. He is a micromanager.

He believes that his teachers are not doing their jobs and they are not doing well. He is sure that excessive supervision is needed even to seasoned teachers. He is a fault-finder, and he wants control over all decisions. This school head distrusts his teachers, so tasks rarely get delegated to others who have the potential too. Typically, he believes that there’s hardly room for group discussion or input because the management style is autocratic, which limits creativity and desire to learn new things. Dedicated teachers trying to find meaning and purpose in their jobs are left with nothing but marching orders.

2. He has narcissistic tendencies.

He believes that he is super talented and he is the only one who has the great ideas. He always makes himself look good at the expense of his teachers’ hard work. He sees to it that the lives of those who disagree with him will be miserable by curtailing their chances in promotion or reclassification. He hoards information, and there is no transparency. He does not acknowledge his teachers’ excellent ideas nor give them credit for a job well done. He is manipulative and he is excellent in making his teacher-achievers doubt themselves and their ultimate value to school by spreading misinformation about them. He is insecure and threatened about the achievement of his teachers.

3. He lacks compassion and empathy.

Teachers are not seen as valued human beings. He takes sides and practices favoritism. He always makes it a point that the disagreeing teachers should get out of the system because there are a lot of teacher-applicants who can replace them. He even gives private instructions to his allies and newbies to avoid conversations with the teachers he dislikes. As a result, there are high levels of stress, turnover, absenteeism, and burnout.

4. He is a workaholic.

He is working unreasonable hours, even on weekends, as a display of his “commitment” to work and he is setting that expectation to every teacher around him.

When a school is ruled by a power-tripping school head, previously cooperative and involved teachers begin to be “passive-aggressive.” Many of them will stop volunteering for optional in-services. Faculty meetings will become silent affairs. No one will participate in discussions except the favorites. While other teachers may not sabotage the school initiatives, neither would they make the effort to make them succeed. Researches also show that working for a toxic boss can take a serious psychological toll than push one to do better. Using fear and intimidation to maintain control is draining a worker’s mental strength. As a result, quality of education suffers, and the workplace misery is spilled over into the teachers’ personal lives too.

To improve the provision of good quality education, changing the curriculum, crafting teacher performance appraisal or implementing reasonable pupil/teacher ratios are not sufficient conditions. Equally important is ensuring that teachers are motivated and supported by a better school head, not a power tripper. Improving the status of teaching is associated with teachers’ better motivation and job satisfaction, which increases their retention and performance, as well as student learning.

Todd Whitaker once said: “When the principal sneezes the whole school catches a cold.” Schools will only be a better place for learning when the adults learn how to work better together (Dewitt, 2016). Teachers and principals can both be leaders in schools. They can lead negativity and resentment, or they can lead a more inclusive environment where people feel safe to share when they agree or disagree with a process and how to move forward. Retaining the best teachers and engaging them at a high level comes down to how the school head treat and serve them. Suffice it to say; it’s critical that the Department of Education (DepEd) should look first on how the school heads manage the school before putting all the blame to teachers.

Margarita Lucero Galias

Margarita L. Galias began her career in education as a high school math and physics teacher in Immanuel Lutheran High School in Malabon City and Manila Central University, Caloocan City before serving as a public school teacher in Sorsogon City in 1995. She was a university scholar and graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Education, major in Math-Physics from De La Salle Araneta University. She also holds a master’s degree in Management, major in Administration and Supervision from Sorsogon State College. She is now currently employed in Mercedes B. Peralta Senior High School as a classroom teacher and a guidance counselor designate.

2 thoughts on “What Happens When a School Head is on a Power Trip?”

  1. Thanks for posting your insight. I definitely find some motivation on this one. My interest for teaching has been hanging by a thread. I wonder if you could give tips on how to deal with bad school head? I figured maturity does not equate with age sometimes. ?


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