Thursday, August 2, 2012

Advice for New Administrators

As we continue embarking on Connected Educators Month, I would like to take some time to share what I've learned as a school administrator over the past five years.

When I got out of college, I began teaching English to 10th-12th graders at a private Christian high school. After five years of teaching and leading the English department, I was asked to step into a Vice Principal role. My reaction was still from my teacher mind: "Why on earth do they need another administrator? They don't appear to do any work all day!" However, after significant thinking and praying about it, I took the job. Walking into my first year as an administrator filled me with fear. I had no idea what I was doing.

Fast forward five years and I am here to tell you I love my job. Are there difficulties and frustrations? Absolutely!!! Are there times I disagree with decisions made by the administration team? Certainly! However, I have grown immensely both personally and professionally.

If you are stepping into an administrative role this coming school year, allow me to pass on some treasures I've learned over the past five years.

1. Keep the focus in the proper place. Schools are about the students!!! Teachers, staff, and other adults are secondary. All decisions need to be made with the students' needs in mind.

2. Remember what the life of a teacher entails. Don't ever forget the struggles and frustrations as well as the desires you had while you were a teacher. Teachers cannot understand the role of administrators, but an administrator who forgets the life of a teacher becomes ineffective. I enjoy encouraging teachers and motivating them towards growth. This even requires me sometimes to step in and cover lunch duty so a teacher can go make those last minute copies, find upcoming learning opportunities for your teachers and share with them, write an encouraging note, etc.

3. Paperwork and phone calls are a never-ending part of the job of an administrator. However, during the hours that the teachers and students are in the building, try your best to be out of your office. I actually create appointments in my calendar to go to the cafeteria and eat with the students, meet with teachers in the teacher lounge, walk the halls, and visit classrooms. In order to be the best administrator I can be, I need to build these relationships with these interactions. If I am in my office, I have an open door policy where teachers and students alike know they are always welcome to stop in and chat.

4. Be a life-long learner. Not only will this improve your own skills, but it models what we desire for our students and teachers as well. After I entered administration, I went back to school and received my Masters Degree in Educational Administration. I continue to grow by attending various webinars and developing my Personal Learning Network (PLN). I read many books, articles, blog, etc to see what is going on in education beyond my school's walls. This is vital to me personally and professionally.

5. Be ready to apologize. Unless you know something I don't, we are all human and therefore we make mistakes. Our judgement is not always the best. We often have the best intentions, but our actions and reactions can get in the way. I have found that it is best to dismiss the pride and apologize - whether it be to a fellow administrator, teacher, staff person, student, parent, or community member. Be sincere in the apology and watch the relationships heal and grow over time.

Recommended Reading:
I am a prolific reader. Here are some books that have helped develop my leadership abilities as an administrator.

1. What Great Principals Do Differently: 18 Things That Matter Most by Todd Whitaker. (Also follow him on Twitter @ToddWhitaker. He is a great resource for your PLN) A quick read encouraging Principals to be their best and keep proper perspective.

2. If You Don't Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students: Guide to Success for Administrators and Teachers by Neila A. Connors. This book has specific suggestions on how to encourage teachers and keep them positive.If you do, the students benefit.

3. Looking Forward to Monday Mornings: Ideas for Recognition and Appreciation Activities and Fun Things to Do at Work for Educators by Diane Hodges. This also has specific ways to make the work environment more encouraging and fun for the teachers.

Questions for you: If you are already an administrator, what else can you add to assist our new cohorts in the roles in their schools?  If you are entering a role of administrator, what fears do you have? Perhaps we can assist each other along the path.

Add me to your PLN. Twitter: @monicahawk1

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