Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Be a Better Administrator By Teaching

I Think (collage by M.A. Reilly)
Pam @akamomteach  tweeted:

Great administrators should have been great teachers and should stay involved in teaching in some manner. #edchat

I re-tweeted it quickly as I believe that to be true.  It also got me thinking about the necessity for administrators (school based and central-office based) to return to teaching and disrupt their administrative career in order to reclaim teaching capacity, to actively fail and succeed at daily teaching, to develop empathy for teachers and learners, and to use these experiences to reshape vision.  

About 6 years ago I left an assistant superintendency and accepted a full time teaching position at a college where I worked as an associate professor for four years before returning to NJ and administrative work. My work as a teacher during those four years, along with some co-teaching I was able to do when I returned to K-12 public schooling at a high school deeply informs the work I do administratively, especially as I think about evaluation, teaching load, and curriculum.

I'm curious as to what others think about disrupting administrative work by returning to teaching for a year or two. 


  1. Definitely a model that works. I was an administrator and went back to the classroom after we moved to a new area. It was one of the best experiences I had as a teacher. I was a better teacher when I returned to the classroom, and a better leader when I returned back to administration three years later. My professional reflections and quest for learning increased because of my jump back into the classroom.

  2. Excellent points! You took my small idea and developed it into a real vision. As I said later on #edchat, administrators can teach a minimum of one class in middle/high schools yearly. Elementary teaching may require a more disruptive plan logistically. But it can be worked out. To supervise teachers, administrators should stay current on what it's like in the trenches.

  3. @Mrs. Sly Thanks for your comments. I agree. I do think shifting jobs helped me to appreciate different aspects of education work.

  4. @PFE, Sorry didn't know you were the person who first brought the idea up in the chat as I missed at was just reading through. Thanks. I agree that teaching shifts perspective. I noticed that when I went to work at a college, my status as a teacher was very different than my status as an assistant supt. Interesting what power comes with a title.

  5. I'm wondering what makes most administrators want to choose that path in the first place. I've been a teacher for twelve years and have never once thought I might want to be in administration. Is it too cynical to think that many administrators decide that the classroom isn't for them after all so they choose to supervise instead? In that case, how much would returning to the classroom help teachers in general? Would it just create admin that misunderstand the classroom even more?
    It Just Got Interesting

  6. @Brent Wow. Hadn't considered that. I went from teaching students to teaching teachers, principals and supt at an academy in NJ. I almost always have had a hand in teaching. Being an admin has been satisfying too. As the Dir of Literacy for Newark Public Schools, I felt the work I did was most important. Thanks Brent.

  7. I've had two Principals. One taught for 3 years, the other 10. What a huge difference in point of view. The one that taught for 3 was not well liked be faculty and students. Very goal oriented. The one that taught for 10 has brought stability and teamwork. She's not afraid to get her hands dirty. I've driven up to school and she's in the playground picking up trash, an hour later she's in a classroom reading to the class. I really believe the classroom keeps you grounded. If anything I think admins should have more teaching experience than three years.

  8. @Mary Ann --"PFE" and "akamomteach" are one and the same. Sorry for the confusion. "PFE" is my google sign in, "akamomteach" is my twitter handle. Your experience is very interesting. Great that you now have the flexibility to be involved in administration and teaching. @Andy's reflection is typical of what I've noticed as well. Some people go into teaching with the goal of teaching the minimum required years to get into admin. Those seem to be the ones with less respect for the teaching profession.


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