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Armchair Quarterbacking

Posted by on in Leadership
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armchair quarterback

Like most of you, I have kept tabs on the shooting of Harambe that occured at the Cincinnati Zoo. We have heard opinion after opinion, expert after expert, share their thoughts on what should or should not have been done. Then comes public opinion and what others would have done if they were in the same situation. This practice is often referred to as "armchair quarterbacking," the practice of trying to be an expert on something about which the individual knows only a modicum at best. While it is certainly a part of our First Amendment rights to speak freely, we often get lost in what actually happened.

 An incident occurred and professionals responded.

We often forget this before criticizing. We see it daily in the news from police procedures to government responses. While we may not agree with the way things are handled, in most situations, professionals are trained to deal with the incident.

When I was teaching, I often heard from non-teaching friends about how easy the job is, how we get the summers off, how they would teach and make our schools better. My response was (and will always be)

If teaching is as simplistic and uncomplicated as you make it out to be, get your cert and walk in my shoes for a day. Then we’ll talk.

In my current role as a superintendent, I’m the main target when it comes to criticism in schools. It’s a part of the job. No matter what happens, you can’t make everyone happy, and you’ll burn yourself out if you try. Just as when I was teaching, I tell folks the same thing when they start criticizing every move I make: get the cert and help those of us in these positions fix the problem. 

Sometimes my biggest criticizers are fellow educators. In a previous district, there was a small pocket of folks where, if I said the sky was blue, they would be the first to disagree. While that wasn’t bothersome, what was is that they spent 24/7 talking about whatever it was. They tried to sour colleagues, parents, and stakeholders; they tried to take anything I said and twist it into something else. Their paranoia or guilt drove them to do or say anything and use their own time doing it. Why would I care if it’s their own time? Those educators (not in my current district) could have actually invested in their lesson plans or their students to make their classroom an amazing avenue of learning.

I close with this.

Before you start criticizing something you have no relevant background in, think about the professionals who are charged with making the decisions. Yes, it’s not going to work out every time, and, yes, mistakes or intentional actions will be made on occasion, but those professionals are trained and are experienced, whether you like it or not.

Put your energy into something positive and productive. Those who surround you will thank you.


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Jay Eitner is a proud product of the New Jersey public schools. A graduate from Union High School in 1997, Jay attended The American University in Washington DC with a BA in interdisciplinary studies. He began his teaching career in Roselle, NJ teaching a variety of subjects including social studies, computers, and digital literacy. Known for being ‘outside of the box’ and for strong technology infusion, Eitner strived to make a learning environment that was student centered, data driven, and technology infused. Jay received his Masters Degree from Kean University in 2004 and was hired to teach 8th grade social studies in the nationally recognized East Brunswick Public Schools. During his time in East Brunswick, Eitner has written & received over $140,000 in grants for his students. Grants ranged from podcasting equipment to creating a fully-interactive gold-rush experience, where students dug for gold during their westward expansion unit. Jay obtained his supervisor, principal, and school administrator certificates from the NJPSA NJ-EXCEL program in 2009. Administratively, Eitner has served as a middle school Assistant Principal in the Washington Township Schools , a K-12 Supervisor of Social Studies in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District, and a Superintendent of the Lower Alloways Creek School District. Jay currently serves as a Superintendent of Schools for the Waterford Township School District. He has presented a series of workshops on digital leadership, technology infusion, and student achievement. Recent awards include the 2015 national Educators Voice Award in the category of Superintendent, the White House MakerSpace distinction, and named to the national Academy of Arts & Sciences as a 2016 Educator To Watch.

Jay currently resides in Mount Laurel, New Jersey and is a proud Dad of twin girls and his puppy Lola.

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Guest Thursday, 27 October 2016