Lincoln J. Card on Teaching and Learning: Advice for Administrators.


Discipline is one of the toughest challenges that many school administrators face. Card reminds us that “teachers have a right to teach, and students have a right to learn.” Encouraging respect and civility in the classroom while disciplining students as necessary can achieve both ends. Although discipline is a necessity, “you do it with love, not anger.”


Card as a Young Principal in 1960


Card recalls that as a principal he would advise his teachers to bring students “who are bugging you so badly that you can’t teach” to his office. An instance that sticks out in Card’s memory was the time that a fifth or sixth grade boy who had been sent to the principal’s office by his teacher burst out crying when Card approached him. Card said he knew something was wrong because “boys that age don’t cry.” The boy said, “My teacher hates me. My teacher hates me!” Card calmed the boy and asked him if he would be willing to stay 10 or 15 minutes after school every day. Card then suggested that after school the boy might go to his teacher and ask her, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” Card then asked the boy to come back in about two weeks. Before the two weeks were over, the teacher came to the office. She said, “That young man is the most wonderful student I’ve ever had.” When the boy returned to see Card, he exclaimed, “My teacher loves me! My teacher loves me!” Card counsels administrators, “Love your kids. It’s surprising what can happen.”


Administrators are also charged with providing leadership and support for their faculty. Rock Canyon Elementary, where Card spent the larger part of his career as a principal, had “great staff and a lot of wonderful kids.” But one of the challenges of being a principal was helping the occasional teachers “who didn’t teach children—they taught books.” As a principal, often “the teachers are your greatest challenge, not the kids.” A principal is a critical resource for the odd teacher who does seem out of place in the classroom. Aiding staff who want to improve their teaching is one of the most important duties of a principal. But occasionally a principal can help best by guiding occupationally unhappy staff members toward other careers. However, Card is quick to add, “I’ve had mostly really, really good teachers.”


What better legacy can you find than encouraging others to teach? As an administrator, Card has always encouraged others to consider teaching as a career, extending to the university level. Brad Wilcox, now a faculty member in the Teacher Education Department at the McKay School, taught sixth grade under Card. Card said that Wilcox was “one of the best teachers I’ve ever seen—kids ate out of his hand.” Card thought Wilcox’s teaching was so exemplary that he advised Wilcox to become “a teacher of teachers.” Card speaks of the important role teachers have in the lives of their students and of the immense rewards of a teaching career. “The teacher makes the difference,” he says. “It has been a joy to work in that profession. I would recommend it to anyone.”