19 December 2007

What I Know for Sure

Once in a while, someone will ask me if I ever plan to move into administration. After more than ten years of teaching, it does seem like a logical question and the logical next step.

So while I am a big believer in “never say never”, I know for sure that I will never be a school administrator. Simply put, I would be terrible at it and being terrible at my job would make me unhappy. I do not possess the qualities that a good administrator needs.

I’m not looking for anyone, in either the real world or virtual world, to tell me not to be so hasty, not to underestimate myself. Actually, I think I should be applauded for my honest self-assessment and level of self-awareness. Wouldn’t the school system be a better place if everyone was as reflective as I, and chose to really question themselves before plunging headlong into something with such huge potential for disaster, both personal and professional?

It bothers me that anyone can become an assistant principal or principal. All one needs to do is take the appropriate classes. You don’t even have to have a teaching background anymore. In the corporate world, aren’t people promoted into leadership positions based on performance? While I often bemoan the application of business principles to the education of children, this is one practice that the city really should embrace. There are plenty of people out there with AP licenses who should just not attempt the position because they have serious flaws as teachers. There are plenty of people who pursued the credential because they wanted to get away from children. There are people who’ve worked their way into quasi-administrative positions, often as a “stepping stone” and don’t even try to fulfill the requirements of that position.

Why is it so easy for people to earn these credentials and move into these positions? Being an assistant principal or principal should be a prestigious thing, and maybe outsiders view it as such, but those of us on the inside know that we could do it too, if we wanted. Obviously, a shortage exists. But programs that churn out insta-principals (instapals?) are not a solution. I don’t have a solution myself, but

My advice to anyone who’s thinking about administration is simple: don’t just ask yourself if you’d enjoy the position. Ask yourself if you’d be good at it. Ask yourself about your real motivation and how you will use that to inspire your staff. Ask yourself if you have honest, well-developed people skills. Ask yourself if you know how to walk in the shoes of the teachers. I have encountered some poor administrators during my career, and in my opinion, the worst ones are those who forget what it’s like to be around kids so much, to scramble and scrape for materials and resources, to deal with the fact that a class and the work it does is always a work in progress and never really a finished product. They forget that we have a lot to do, and if we’re asked to do even more, we want to know how it will help and what kind of support we’re going to get.

I appreciate that I have a career that allows me to earn a living while giving me time to pursue my personal interests and have time with my family. I think I’ve learned that I am only as good as the leadership above me, and maybe I need to become better at working well without strong guidance. I don’t know if such a thing is possible.


Schoolgal said...

Instapals! I love it!

I went through an instapal program, but decided against becoming an administrator. I did it to help me become a better staff developer since most of the courses offered dealt with that topic. And, my pay level was more than a first year AP. But mostly because I do not think I would have the stomach for it. Also,at this point in time, Klein is not a friend to APs and would like those positions dumped in the future. Maybe that will change under new leadership.

I too was surprised at some to the people in my courses. I would never want to work for them. They were either nasty or had superior tones. Presently, there are 6 teachers in my school who are on a free program through the city.(I had to pay for mine through a state college.) Some of these teachers are not very successful. Others have less than 5 years in the system and another was only in the classroom for one year before landing a cluster position.

However I do have a friend that went through a real administrative college program. She is an excellent teacher and knows her stuff. She was made an acting AP until her LIS decided she hated the acting principal. As a result, they all lost their positions.

Many schools wanted her. Unfortunately that LIS made it impossible for her to get a city position as an AP. One principal told her to take the fact that she was an acting principal off her resume to protect her in the future.

So she is back teaching with a principal who knows her qualities.
She even stayed to 6pm most nights to assist the principal.

No one really respects our AP because her decision-making process leaves a lot to be desired. And since she does not have children, she dedicates 24/7 to the job and would expect us to do the same. (She may be the next principal.) She recently attended an AP meeting, and was shocked that the topic was ways to harass teachers rather than support them. So many APs couldn't wait to share their evil achievements.

However, I think you would make a wonderful "anything you want to be". Another teacher blogger just posted on sending out a resume that is teacher related, and seems excited.

Of course if the DoE and Union would concentrate on teacher empowerment, safety, discipline and better working conditions, I doubt this post (and others like it) would be necessary.

You must be thinking seriously about change. It can come in many forms and from many other places.
Don't be afraid to explore any opportunity.

Jane said...

I am with you in the "never say never" but I REALLLY never want that job! At least as a teacher, I know who I work for- the children. With an admin job you work for the budget, you work for what gets test scores at all costs, you work for risk analysis dept., you work for crunching numbers. In the end, I think the job takes it's toll.

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