Sorry, but I Won’t Think for You

Sorry, but I Won't Think for You |

As a school administrator and former special education teacher, I have tremendous respect and high regard for teachers. Occasionally, the teaching field can be extremely-difficult, stressful, and full of delayed gratification. Teachers are the “front-line force” for implementing a school district and school building’s goals and objectives. It is teachers that face the numerous academic, behavioral, and social challenges of their students, all students. All teachers must know that I support you and your efforts, but I will not think for you.

This past summer I researched and read many sources dedicated to social cognitive theory, motivation theory, professional development theory, adult learning theory, learning theories, and connectivism. In short, I am more motivated than ever before to establish a work-environment that provides teachers and support staff with autonomy, professionalism, and opportunities to be innovative. I am willing to not be a micro-manager that stifles their staff, rather than empowers their growth. But again, I will not think for you.

Though early in this school year, I have committed myself to ensuring professional development sessions, building workshops, team collaboration meetings, and informal discussions yield teachers with “room to stretch” and “grow.” I have encouraged staff to take risks, delve into built-in time to create independent projects/solutions, and build various school programs without strict administrative oversight. Basically, I’m the complete anti-thesis of Type A, top-down, micro-managerialish school principals.

And don’t get me wrong…I provide parameters, foundation, and structure. Motivation theory and social cognitive theory specifically indicates that people will do what they know; avoiding all else that they are not comfortable or competent doing. Based on this research finding, this means that school administrators can’t just give teachers autonomy, individuality, and space just for the sake of doing so. Instead, specific parameters and guidelines must be stated that leads team members to understand the ultimate outcome expectation. For some administrators this is difficult, as they try to not overly-state what is expected and compromise the innovation of team members.

Teachers deserve a work environment that allows autonomy, individuality, innovation, and opportunities to take risk. But, I will not think for you. In this environment, teachers must be able to work independently, collaborate with others, access resources, think outside-the-box, and still be held accountable.

As always, my role as a school administrator is also “lead learner,” “lead teacher,” or “chief learning officer.” That’s not just a statement. I’m here to facilitate, coach, guide, lead, help, assist, and empower. I’m here to collaboratively work with you through an entire project, from start to finish.

I definitely don’t want to hold you back, stifle your thinking, destroy your motivation, contain your creativity, negatively judge your approaches, and/or tell you that you’re always wrong. I believe in you, personally and professionally. And I can’t wait to see the amazing things you can create, implement, and produce when given this level of autonomy and free-will.

But, please understand…I won’t think for you.

This blog entry was also posted at Brauer’s blog, Connected Educators.


  1. Paul Erickson said:

    Loved this post and the timing of my reading it was perfect. Thinking for teachers quickly results in an exhausted, headed for burn out principal. Every time I stop thinking for the teachers I lead, the result is awesome. They have brilliant ideas. I pledge not to get in the way of their ideas by thinking for them.

    October 17, 2011
    • James Brauer said:

      Paul, thanks for the response. I have a feeling there are many educators that may not agree with my post. But, in order for a school (regardless of size) to be self-sustaining and operate effectively, it is important that staff members not rely on a school administrator for answers, decisions, and choices.

      To ensure this can be done, a principal must provide enough opportunities for true shared decision-making and distributive leadership. This will begin the path toward empowering their staff.

      Unfortunately, the moment a principal “thinks” for their staff members…that empowerment is gone. A culture will be adopted that staff members wait for a principal to inevitably make decisions for them. This can make the role that much more difficult for principals.

      October 17, 2011

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