In just a few days, I’ll be moving into my new office, and my new position. I’ll no longer be able to call myself an administrator. I may have to change my blog to “The Left-Handed Educator”.
Now I think of it, that’s what my blog should have been called all along. I am an educator. In fact, any school administrator who doesn’t consider themselves to be an educator first and foremost needs to find another job immediately.
I’ll be honest…there was a time when I foolishly considered myself to be a school administrator first and an educator second. While I may have been really good at completing paperwork or handling discipline, I certainly wasn’t good at making an impact in the lives of students or teachers.
In no particular order, here are my thoughts on what it takes to be an effective school administrator:
- Never Forget Where You Came From – As stated above, I was more effective in my position when I remembered why I got into the field of education in the first place. I would be lying if I said, “I want to be a principal when I grow up!” No. I wanted to teach. I wanted to help students grow. The best part of being a school administrator is not necessarily helping students grow; but instead making sure the supports are in place to help students grow. The teachers in your building have a lot to say about that. Before making any decision in you building, be sure to hear the teachers out. They always have an extremely valuable point of view which must be taken into consideration. As you listen, think about what you would have thought when you were in the classroom. Do those thoughts compliment one another or contradict?
- Engage Your Families Any Way You Can – There is a lot of recent research on the importance of engaging families in schools. If you have worked in a building with an extremely supportive PTA, you would think this to be a “no brainer”. However, in schools where parent support seems to be nonexistent, stakeholders often wish more family involvement existed. For those in buildings with low family involvement, my advice is to find out exactly what will engage parents. There is something which will interest them; though it may not be academic at first. Your job is to work to get them engaged, to get them comfortable with being in a school environment. Remember, for many of these family members, school may not have necessarily have been a positive experience on the first go-around.
- “Making Your Mark” Should Be The Farthest Thing From Your Mind – Many school administrators make the mistake of thinking they need to implement a framework or program in the building they can be remembered by. When a signature program, framework, or legacy is implemented, it is often tailored to the administrator who created it. When that individual leaves, those who are left behind are unable or unwilling to sustain it, and the students end up suffering somehow. It’s perfectly OK to want to implement a change or a new program. However, your stakeholders should own this change as much as you do.
Being a school administrator is a big responsibility. Decisions made not only have the ability to impact the working environment of teachers; decisions also impact the present and future lives of the students who come to your building to learn on a daily basis. “Kids first” is more than a catch phrase. As planning for the new school year continues, be sure to use the lenses you have acquired through your experience as an educator: student, parent, teacher, community member…even the lens of a critic can be enlightening.
For most, being a school administrator doesn’t mean you are the only person making the decisions. Even in the smallest school systems, building administrators have the talents from another building, central office, or even their personal learning network to draw from. Though school administration can be a lonely field, it doesn’t have to be.