Prelude to writing

So, Dean Shareski has suggested that I should start writing. He even sent me this Seth Godin’s blog. I figure what the heck, let’s see what comes from this.

What got this all started was Dean threw out a comment on twitter “Teachers or leaders who say they don’t need to be liked to be effective are likely not liked and probably not effective.” to which I replied “but really, I am effective. ”

Now, it’s not that I don’t want to be liked – in fact, being a principal in a K – 12 school means that I DO want the students to like me. This can’t happen all the time. There is a huge difference between being liked and being effective.  I’m the person that gets to come in after someone has worked at trying to be liked. I have spent most of my administrative career working at helping schools to move from being ineffective and dysfunctional to being effective, functional and doing “What’s best for students!” Don’t worry, this isn’t a story of how to do that – (secret NO MAGIC SOLUTION)

Do I want to be liked? Who doesn’t? It’s way to draining and soul sapping to work at being miserable. Something I point out to students, usually at odd moments when discussing something in a class I am teaching (which is another topic I really need to address), is that, for the most part, older people who are miserable were probably that way most of their lives. They’ve practiced at it and have become very good at it. They know how to suck the joy, fun and life out of any occassion. (Just take a look at some of the most recent articles written about THIS generation.)  Not always but more common than not. I also point out that it’s an attitude – and that they have complete control of theirs. No one makes you be miserable – you choose that all by yourself.

No, there is a difference.

You see, it’s like this – I love my children but I don’t always like them. Heck, I love my wife but I don’t always like her. It’s what I do because I love them that makes the difference during those times when I don’t like them. At school, I love what I do. I don’t always like some of the decisions or some of the situations but I love doing what I do because what I do is so very different from what many administrators do. How do I know? Well, in working with administrators for the past 10 years, my stories aren’t the same. In fact, many of the stories I hear, begin where mine end.

Sometimes you aren’t liked. Sometimes you have to make very tough choices and they are hard to make and rarely do people agree with you …… at the time. In fact, it is not until much later and only through another source, that I have learned that people who have come after truly appreciate the difficult decisions and the tough choices.

I don’t like not being liked but sometimes you have to be willing to move through that in order to do what is right for students.

*Small aside – I do know that many will not understand and will disagree. But, and I read this somewhere, via a link on twitter, until you understand the road I have tread, you only glimpse a shadow of what I have walked.



  1. Reply

    I’m with you on that. I actually tweeted that after hearing someone suggest it didn’t matter if your students liked you. I think it does. Not that everyone will like you but trust and relationships are integral for classroom success and leadership.

    Teaching is tough stuff, leadership is tough and as you and I both know so is parenting. The goal isn’t to be liked but to be effective. They aren’t mutually exclusive and many times being effective means you aren’t liked. Yet most days I think when being liked matters a lot in all those roles. I worry when people suggest it isn’t. I don’t think I want to work for them or be their students.

    Glad you wrote this.

    • Reply

      I also agree. I once heard a stat that I have remembered and thought often about.

      The 20-60-20 Rule

      20 percent of students will like you/trust you no matter what you say
      20 percent of students will not like you/trust you no matter what you say
      60 percent of students have not made up their minds yet.

      I strive to get those 60 percent of kids (and the 20 percenters) on my side and I think that it has made all of the difference in the world for my rapport, classroom management and communication.

  2. TJ Shay


    What matters to me as a teacher is that I am respected. Liked is just icing on the cake. I believe if you are fair and the kids see that, you will earn their respect. If you are friendly and take an interest in their lives or have similar interests, you will be liked.

    Unless the parent I am dealing with is completely crazy (not as if that has ever happened), most angry-screaming parents I have ever dealt with went completely silent when I said that the rule I was enforcing was fair. That is truly what matters to me in all situations.

    I think the same thing holds true for administrators. The teachers know you aren’t perfect, and we aren’t either, but you hired us to build programs and so it is our jobs to fight for what we see is best for students (in our programs, first). So, we don’t have to agree with you or like you, but we want to see you are fair. I don’t have to like a person to work with them, but I do need to respect them. If I see they are fair, it goes a long way.

    I have been a long-time critic of administration. This was due to many years of mismanagement and unfair treatment. I didn’t like them, but worse, I had no respect for the job they were doing. If I can believe that the decisions that are made, even if I whole-heartedly disagree, are in the best interest of children and made fairly, I can live with anything. I am fI ortunate this year to have a Superintendent who truly looks at matters and tries to figure out what is best for students. I respect him…and like him.

    As an aside, the teacher that inspired me to be a teacher was someone I liked a great deal…even loved. However, I didn’t respect them and sort of learned what not to do as a teacher. Believe me, I want every single kid to like me, because that makes my job so much easier, but I am not willing to sacrifice respect, which I know you aren’t either.

    I definitely like you and I am glad to know that you are being tough and fair…the world needs a lot more of that.

  3. Reply

    In my opinion, effective and fair administrators are liked, whether or not that is their intention. Even when decisions are made which impact oneself negatively, if they are made in a fair way, and the decision is transparent, one continues (generally, if one is a reasonable person), to have begrudging respect for that person.

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