Supervisors and Teachers: A Private Cold War Notes

Blumberg, A. (1980). Supervisors & teachers: A private cold war. Berkley, CA: McCutchan Publishing Company.

Chapter 1: Supervision, Supervisors, and Teachers

  • Definition of supervision: “It does not deal, for example, with curriculum planning, in-service training, or instructional systems, or with prescriptions for organizing the supervisory substructure of school districts (p. 1).” (The author is stating that this particular book is about supervision, but it does not talk about any of the functions listed in the aforementioned quotation. In essence, then, he is describing functions or roles of supervision, but those roles and functions are not discussed in this particular book.)
  • Relationships between supervisors and teachers are the heart of supervision and yet they are problematic in creating and maintaining them.
  • Relationships are the heart of supervision, and they are also the problem.
  • Teachers view supervisors as dangerous.
  • “It appears that supervisors are more inclined to attribute the resistance and defensiveness they encounter to individual differences among teachers rather than to any type of systemic or role-induced phenomenon (p. 4).”
  • Relationships should enhance the partnership and a stance towards inquiry.
  • The cold war between supervisors and teachers: “Neither side trusts the other and each side is convinced of the correctness of its position (p. 5).”
  • (I think of one the problems is how supervisors view their jobs. If they feel that their job is to fix teachers, then relationships are destined to have tension.)
  • “The first is that the problems that most teachers and supervisors seem to encounter are the result of behavioral conflicts and not the result of personality differences (p. 6).”
  • “What they do, what they say, and how they deal with each other is always, in some fashion, related to the manner in which they perceive, interpret, and react to the normative structure and role demands of the system in which they work (p. 7).”


Chapter 2: Part of the Problem is in the System

  • Selecting Supervisors

    • Good teachers do not necessarily make good supervisors. Certification does not necessarily mean competence.
    • (MY QUESTION – What then are the characteristics of good supervisors? And how do supervisors learn their job?)
  • The Supervisory Substructure

    • Teacher warning systems regarding the supervisor’s entrance in the building show teachers distrust the system of supervision, its representatives, and individuals. It also shows how they view supervision – both the supervisor and the teacher. Supervision then is seen as an inspection.
    • Supervision is situated in a larger context – the school system. This institutional system must be examined as well in order to understand the problem associated with supervision.
    • Supervisor as inspector è Teachers devised warning signs to notify others that the supervisor was walking around.


Chapter 3: The Goals and Realities: Digging a Bit Deeper

  • Goals of supervision during this era: instructional improvement; teacher growth both personally and professionally
  • A discrepancy exists between the intentions of supervision and the products of supervision.
  • Some Disturbing and Neglected Findings

    • Supervisors’ perceptions of their roles: “Most tend to view the results of their work in a very positive way, and few feel that what they do with teachers is a waste of time (p. 19).”
    • Teachers and supervisors perceive supervision differently: teachers as useless and supervisors as useful.
  • Digging a Little Deeper

    • Supervisors are viewed as non-practitioners, which contributes to their negative perceptions.
    • “The different reactions of the few teachers who view their supervisory experiences as productive are interesting. Their supervisors communicated a willingness to engage with them; they dealt with problems of teaching and learning; they had resources that were made available; the image they presented to the teacher was that of a human being first and a supervisor second (p. 25).”
    • Supervisors on Teachers and Supervision

      • Complex nature of teaching: “It is probably true, however, that most classroom or teaching problems do not have simple solutions. They require thought, analysis, and solution testing. Where the supervisor considers discussion necessary but the teacher demands a quick, easy answer, it is not difficult to picture the bind in which the supervisor is caught (p. 27).”
      • Supervisors are viewed as outsiders and intruders.
      • “So there is a tendency for supervisors and teachers to avoid one another people and to construct sometimes elaborate games in which both engage (p. 29).”
      • Supervision as artificial


Chapter 4: Some Fantasies about Supervisors and Teachers

  • Teachers were asked to draw houses in which supervisors currently lived and where they would live in the future. These depictions gave insight into teachers’ perceptions of supervisors and the nature of their work. Teachers perceive supervisors as distant, rigid, procedural, concerned with status, unemotional, and formal. Their concerns and priorities are around administrative work. Teachers feel supervisors’ work is disconnected from them, so they don’t listen to them.
  • Teachers envision supervision to include : Teachers want supervisors to be open and accessible. Teachers want voice. Teachers want supervisors to act as consultants.
  • Teachers avoid supervisors. “In order to counter the deflationary effect of teacher avoidance, it may well be that supervisors engage in various status-building efforts (p. 39).”
  • Requiring teachers to ask for help continues to support the avoidance behavior.
  • Visions of supervision compared to current notions of supervision: “They are marked by openness and nearness, as opposed to closedness and remoteness; comfort and warmth, as opposed to tension and coolness; easy, rather than difficult access to resources; humanism and flexibility, rather than mechanism and rigidity; and a collaborative problem-solving climate, rather than what appears to be a climate that focuses on procedures and form (p. 40).”