At times, teaching can feel like an endurance race more than a job. Research says there are two teacher traits which can measure the effectiveness of a teacher. They have nothing to do with years of experience, or how many degrees a person holds.
These two traits? Teacher Self-Efficacy, and the intrinsic Belief Students can learn.
Teacher self-efficacy has to do with capacity. Are you qualified to do your job? Well, you wouldn’t have been hired if you didn’t have the skills. You were hired because of the skills you have, and your philosophy on education. You are capable, you just need to make sure you express the confidence which goes along with capability.
You may have been asked the following question in your interview: ‘Do you believe all students can learn?’. You are in your position because you answered yes, and because the person who hired you thought you meant it. To say that all students can learn is one thing, but meaning it is completely different. When you have a strong belief in something, it often helps you in an adverse situation. Consider the Little Engine Who Could… “I think I can, I think I can…” There are going to be students who challenge your beliefs. Unfortunately, there are also going to be other adults in your building who are going to challenge them too some will be outright adamant this just isn’t true. Don’t let them change your thinking. Kids will know when you give up on them.
So the next time you are confronted by a parent questioning your credentials, or a student asking how old you are, remember this: YOU ARE QUALIFIED! You have the skills needed to get the job done, and you have a plan to do it! You believe in yourself, and most importantly, you believe those students you work alongside on a daily basis can too.
Last month, I had the opportunity to participate in a Podcast as a panel member on a discussion panel pertaining to what professional learning pertaining to cultural diversity should look like. It was an interesting experience as I had never done anything like that before! The link will take you to the Podcast. Enjoy!
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.
At the beginning of the school year, I made the commitment to record my thoughts on a consistent basis; basically once a week. As I get deeper in the school year, the creative side of me tends to get overwhelmed by all the stress and crazy that takes place in an “at-risk” environment. We all know stress inhibits creativity. This week has been one of those creativity squashing weeks. A 2015 article in The Boston Globe reminds us creativity can also reduce stress.
One of the ways I reduce stress is through enjoying the creativity of others. So, whenever I’m too stressed to get my creative juices flowing this school year, I’ll share some sites which showcase the creativity of others! This time, I’ll share some pretty FABULOUS blogs:
Cult of Pedagogy – Author Jennifer Gonzalez is a self-proclaimed education nerd who shares her thoughts about education and has created an amazing forum for educators from all walks of life, all over the world, to learn and grow from one another.
Cool Cat Teacher – In addition to reflecting upon her own experiences, Vicki Davis also takes the time to review a variety of works centered around best educational practices and frameworks which have been tested and proven within classrooms.
Math Coach’s Corner – Currently, I am the administrator supervising math instruction within my building. I have to credit the vast majority of our progress to our amazing math coach. Donna Boucher’s thoughts on math instruction are forward thinking, yet easily digestible
Blogging has become such an important part of my personal and professional growth as an educator. Even if I hadn’t made the commitment to blog on a regular basis, I would continue to seek out information through this amazing outlet.The above blogs only scrape the surface of educational insight; and I encourage you not only to skim through these, but to also find some of your own favorites as well!