Friday, December 26, 2014

Do you have to be a great teacher to be a great administrator?

I saw this tweet by Josh Stumpenhorst and it got me thinking...

The tweet got me thinking about my own personal experiences in education. I was a high school German teacher for 6 years before moving to administration. I was 27 years old when I started my first administrative position. At that time many thought I was still too young and not experienced enough as a teacher to be an administrator.

To be honest, I think some of them were probably right...

But here's the deal, as a teacher I had helped to build a successful German program that was thriving. In a high school with around 1,800 students, we had about 300 of those students taking a German class. I was involved in our professional development team, I was leading a professional book club for teachers, I was leading a push for technology integration, and I really honestly believed I was positively affecting the overall school culture and climate which was leading to increased learning opportunities for students.

So naturally it made sense that if I could have this much of an impact on the building as a teacher, I'm sure I could have even more of an impact as an administrator...

I remember the question during the interview just like it was yesterday...

'So, why do you want to become an administrator?'

Well, as a teacher, I can directly impact just the students in my class, but as an administrator I can indirectly impact an entire school and community.

That's the 'go-to' response for all teachers interviewing for an administrative position when asked 'why do you want to become an administrator?'

I'd like to challenge folks to ask a different question instead...

What if we started asking teachers wanting to move into administration this question:

What specifically have you done as a teacher to help your students maximize their potential and how have you positively influenced the lives of your students?

This question in my opinion forces the candidate to identify what they've done as a teacher to help their students.

The reality is there are administrators who were excellent teachers who did absolutely wonderful things for their students. Some of these same great teachers really aren't that great as administrators.

On the flip side, there are also administrators who really weren't that effective as teachers but now find themselves leading a building and they are doing great. There are also those who weren't very effective as a teacher and similarly are struggling as an administrator.

So, does one have to be a great teacher to be a great administrator...?

If not, what message does that send to the great teachers wanting to move into administration...?

Lastly, if someone struggled as a teacher, can that same individual be an effective instructional leader for a building full of teachers?