As a school principal, I do my best to stay up to date with current best practices in the education field. I read, blog and tweet. I visit classrooms, interact with students, and utilize a shared leadership approach to administrative practice. I try to create a school environment in which teachers feel comfortable taking appropriate risks — one where innovative practice is encouraged. I would like to think that I am a forward thinking administrator who makes decisions based upon the best interest of students and staff members. However, I have recently been struggling to keep my head above the proverbial water level, dealing with a plethora of distractions, and it has led to some rather intense reflection about my role as an administrator — specifically, the ways in which I stay connected to what is happening in the classroom.
I recently wrote a post about my social media practices — What’s the point? Blogging and tweeting…my two cents. An admired colleague, Bill Ferriter (@plugusin), left a very poignant response to my post, suggesting that an additional reason for school administrators to participate in social media endeavors is to build credibility with teachers by making their learning transparent. He supported this statement with the following comments:
You know, the honest truth is that it is hard for us teacher folks to buy into “the principal as instructional leader” label when we rarely see y’all instructing — or even thinking actively about instruction.
And because of the ridiculous demands of your job, it’s hard for y’all to find the time to instruct — or to engage in meaningful conversations with EVERY teacher about instruction.
What an incredibly insightful, and all too often accurate, depiction of school administration. In light of my recent time management issues, it was like a punch to the gut (in a good way, if that is possible). A litany of questions began popping into my head.
- Am I doing enough to be an instructional leader on my campus?
- What am I doing to stay actively connected with the classroom?
- How do I relate to my teaching staff — developing a true understanding of their daily challenges?
- Am I still a teacher?
- Why would my staff lend credence to what I have to say about classroom instruction?
I obviously don’t have all of the answers to these questions, but I think they deserve careful consideration. As a school administrator, how do I balance my administrative responsibilities (hiring, paperwork, meetings, budget, etc.) while maintaining relevance and credibility as an instructional leader? As Bill pointed out in his comment,
When you’re actively making your learning transparent by sharing what you’re reading and by writing about what your reading in social spaces, you have the chance to stand as a thinker in front of anyone who wants to look.
I certainly agree, but I am also thinking that it has to go beyond that. School administrators have to be diligent and purposeful about staying plugged in to what is happening in classrooms and the challenges faced by their instructional staff. I guess the essential question in this dilemma, is whether or not that is possible without teaching on a regular basis. How should the role of the school administrator change in order to ensure the effective practice of instructional leadership? Should we be required to pack up our offices and teach classes on a regular basis? Are school administrators necessary, or could this role be assumed by teacher leaders? As always, your thoughts and suggestions are welcomed.