Stoic philosophy shapes a New Jersey superintendent’s leadership style

“Leading a school or district is often hectic, yet superintendents and principals can aim to instill a sense of tranquility in their leadership style.”

Glenn Robbins
Permission granted by Glenn Robbins

Glenn Robbins, in charge of Brigantine Public Schools in New Jersey since 2020, finds his calm in stoic philosophy, focusing on controllable factors, maintaining emotional balance, presence, altruism for communal welfare, and seeing potential in challenges.

With 21 years of experience, Robbins previously held positions as superintendent of New Jersey’s Tabernacle School District, as well as roles as principal and assistant principal.

Robbins mentioned, “As a school leader, you must embody a certain level of stoicism—staying composed and collected.” He recently co-authored “Calm in the Chaos: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Successful School Leadership” with Daniel Bauer, an educator and consultant specializing in principal development and retention.

“Your actions as a leader are constantly under scrutiny, reflecting on your community,” says Robbins.

We had a conversation with Robbins to delve into how he integrates stoicism into his superintendency and what insights other educational leaders can draw from this philosophy.

K-12 DIVE: When I think of stoicism, I think of recognizing what you can change in a situation and what you can’t, and staying calm. What are some examples of situations where you’ve had to do that as a school leader?

GLENN ROBBINS: I start off in the book illustrating a scenario from a board meeting, where tensions ran high and no matter what I did, it seemed to be misinterpreted. Bauer recounts an incident involving discipline and parental engagement.

These are situations beyond your control—social media storms at odd hours, rampant rumors spreading. You can only manage what’s within the district and your team’s scope. And even then, trying to control a teacher’s classroom isn’t feasible.

What you can regulate are your views, goals, circle of influence, temper, attitude, and character. Out of your control are students’ fates, project outcomes, teachers’ classrooms, policies set by the board or central office, and interaction with parents and the community.

What’s one stoic lesson that you particularly take to heart in leadership?

ROBBINS:<

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