Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Principal Wanted: No Experience. No Problem.

Administrators and School Boards take plenty of beatings from teachers.   My experience with both has been mixed but I don't have any complaints beyond the norm(their experience with me might be described in much the same way).  Mostly because I understand that even though we have the same goal in mind for students, we see the day to day realities of education differently.  I am sympathetic to their plight and certainly would have much tougher time without their support.  That said there are the more and more individuals entering leadership roles I don't tend to appreciate.

Want to be Principal?  No Teaching Experience?  Not a problem.
They are usually teachers, administrators or other "educrats" who are focused on getting somewhere instead of focusing on doing the job here and now.  They seem to be serving in their position only because it serves a vehicle for self advancement.  We all know the self promoting appearance over substance type who are slicker than a barber shop shave.   The private sector is not immune from the same thing but that doesn't make me feel better.   In education they seem be more disruptive.  The movement of these individuals into administrative with little consequential experience in subordinate  roles brings a cascade of unfortunate consequences for just about everyone else.

They radically change policy to provide a feather in their cap to trumpet in advance of the next move. They forgo the measured approach for the sake of expediency and instead angle and network to ease their ascension to a "higher" job.   Their consistent lack of understanding of why a teacher makes a decision or  frequent miscommunication due to the absence of been there before wisdom becomes troubling.  Simple time proven methods are swept aside as a byproduct of the lack of experience.  The unwillingness to tackle long term chronic problems that might plague schools might be another side effect.    When they do they meet skepticism from teachers concerned about what's behind such measures.  This is only natural given teacher confront too many individuals such as this who devalue their efforts.  And then there is the inability to fully comprehend all that is involved in teaching and learning and inability to provide the necessary support for students and staff.   Instead of looking around for where to help out and make things better , these folks are looking up and where they want to go. One repercussion of this is the "bad" teacher rhetoric.  A get out of accountability card by throwing problems onto teachers.  This is less likely if individuals have taught.   It is just easier to work with someone who understands your job.  Working with people who have reached higher levels because they do a good job makes a huge difference and we ned more of them, not the opposite. 

Which is why I was puzzled the Charlottesville School Board voted to amend the division requirements for becoming a principal.  Essentially they have removed the requirement that a principal have classroom experience.   The Virginia Department of Education still requires that principals have at least 3 years experience as licensed instructional personnel.  Charlottesville's requirement now reads: "The Charlottesville City School Board, upon recommendation of the superintendent, employs principals and assistant principals who hold licenses as prescribed by the Board of Education."  The state changed the wording back in 2007(?) to allow for individuals to be principals without teaching.  Not to say these folks can't accomplish anything or do good, many do both. 

So it is perhaps a stretch to say that this will really change much.  If anything it might even allow for some outstanding guidance counselors, instructional coaches or other staff to serve as principals.  I might say that if those individuals were serious about being great principals they might entertain the idea that they need classroom experience somewhere along the way.   Even so one reality is that when someone leaves the classroom to administration or some other role their view on things instantly changes.  That's OK.  Different perspectives are helpful so long as both sides can understand where they other is coming from.  In the back of most teachers heads they think "We disagree, but this person knows what it is like."   If they haven;t taught, they might think something a little less accommodating. 

I am troubled by the prospect of working with or for someone who has never been an actual teacher at some point.  I could throw out metaphors about car salesman or pyramid schemes but that would miss the point.  Principals serve in a multitude of roles.  They are educators, role models, supervisors, organizers,  problem solvers and the list goes on.  Above all they are leaders.  In the eyes of this teacher those best able to lead in education must work with teachers and those best able to do that have been teachers themselves.  

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