I recently met with an old friend and former principal who responded to my previous essays on principals and administration with this email note:
Your ideas on administration are right-on. Of course, you would try to do too much, but that's what makes a good educator. You'll never get everything you want, but the goal setting increases the possibility of getting much of it. When you are finally ready to recognize the sacrifice of giving up teaching can mean dividends for other teachers and their students, you'll begin to think about administration. If that day never comes it's perfectly OK. However, the fact you're thinking about these things puts you in danger of acting on them....
He also just happens to be the interim Dean of Education at our local University. I think I'm in real trouble here. So how does it sound, "Cal Administrator Blog"? Not quite as catchy, but maybe...
What really struck me about what he wrote was, "When you are finally ready to recognize the sacrifice of giving up teaching can mean dividends for other teachers and their students, you'll begin to think about administration." Isn't “dividends for other teachers and their students” what I've been writing about? Does taking the next step mean that I have to leave the classroom?
We also spoke about my teaching at the University level. I'd like to be the first face a teacher candidate sees in his or her teacher education program. The one who asks the question, "Are you ready to become a teacher?" And, "Why have you chosen teaching?" Followed up by, "What are your goals in education?" That would scare at least a few of the meek away. I could be like James Naughton in the Paper Chase, "You come in here with a skull full of mush and you leave thinking like a..." teacher.
Am I experiencing an administrative awakening, or something else? Is this simply a "grass is always greener" moment? I don't think so. I must be crazy. Most of the teachers I know and spend time with would never consider a move to administration. Those people are the suits! So why is it nagging at me? Why am I writing about administration? What have the last six months of blog entries really been all about? Is this the natural conclusion?
I am afraid that if I become an administrator that I will spend my days suspending students and attending meetings that have nothing to do with improving the experience students have in the classroom. Well, I guess they might, but not with the direct influence I currently enjoy. My friend described administrators as the “teacher of teachers.” That’s what I want to do, not spend my day on the phone with Johnny’s parents because he’s been a naughty boy, or arguing for more funding because my budget is in the red.
I’ve been investigating credential programs. I haven’t even paid off my Master’s degree yet and here I am considering going further into debt. I’m still paying off my teacher credential loans and that was 12 years ago. I have a few options to consider, but I’ll end up taking the path that gets me to the goal the fastest and with the least amount of time spent away from home. I like online courses (naturally).
The other thing that concerns me about administration is the increased time commitment. Right now I enjoy my afternoons with my baby daughter and being available to attend all of my sons’ baseball games. I’m afraid that I’d have to forfeit some of that personal time to be on campus later, longer, and for more days during the year. The brighter side of that concern is the increased income. The pay scale in my district shows our principal earning 6 figures. That would be nice. But money is not my main motivation, and never has been. If it had, I wouldn’t have chosen education as a career path in the first place.
As far as trying to “do to much,” is concerned, well, I spend a portion of my free time each week writing a blog about teaching that is not widely read or recognized so… I am already trying to “do to much.” Maybe as an administrator my efforts would be put to better and for effective use. Imagine if I required my staff to read my blog entry each week. They’d hate me.
However, I have already considered the first person that I would hire wherever I ended up administrating. She is a substitute teacher here completing her pupil personnel service credential. She was also the Pep Commissioner during her senior year when I was the ASB Advisor. We established an excellent working relationship. She is hard working, dedicated, brilliantly intelligent, and passionate about education. A perfect employee. I wonder how many more like her that I could find to staff my school? Email your resumes to…
Just as I believe that teaching chose me (to the point that that is possible), if I am to become an administrator, the process will be much the same. I had to be convinced to substitute teach, but once I did, I was hooked from the first day. I’ve already performed some quasi-administrative duties at my school. I’ve enjoyed working with my colleagues in leadership positions. I’ve received some positive feedback, and some suggestions for improvement. I’m not yet as excited about administrative leadership as I was about teaching, but that could change.
Often we don’t see ourselves as others see us. I am guiltier of this than most. I am reluctant to change and if it weren’t for my wife, I’m convinced that I would still be stuck somewhere in 1991 (the year that we were married). I rely on the advice and perspective of those around me to help me make the best decisions possible. I’ve been consulting my friends and family seeking their guidance on this decision to make the administrative change. I haven’t made up my mind yet. If you are an administrator, or have ever considering taking the leap, I’d be interested in your observations and experience to help me make this decision.
Please post your comments below.