Could being an administrator be a good fit for you?
What does it take to become an administrator?
Many teachers love their classrooms and daily interactions with students so much. They would never consider moving to an educational leadership position.
To some, administration seems like a bad mixture of working with adults and budget plans, plus tons of meetings.
But, is this really what being an administrator is like?
There are some really good reasons why teachers should explore the role of administrator. While each district and state have their own nuances, there are some general consistencies in the role.
Leading WITHIN the Building.
A significant, yet often unseen responsibility of an administrator is to be the leader when it comes to establishing the “feel” and the culture within a school building. Administrators work in some way with every classroom and support the whole teaching staff. They have the capability to pursue a shared vision that moves students forward in academics and in citizenship.
How do we treat each other here in this place? Do we take care of our building? What do we do to address conflicts with one another?
Sharing this vision of a strong building culture among the students and staff members sends a consistent message about the way things are done.
When the administrator is consistent, he or she is trusted to advocate for students and their families. This, in turn, creates the feeling of belonging and pride, allowing students to dedicate themselves to their learning and activities.
Administrators lead through the daily details.
Dr. Steve Zielinski, an adjunct professor for the Master of Science in Educational Leadership program at Concordia University, loves being in an administrative role. He states, “[As an administrator] while there are certain tasks to accomplish in a day, the day presents itself regardless of what the plan is.” (Every teacher who has had to modify a lesson plan because someone vomited during circle time understands this on a spiritual level.)
Working with young people is never dull, but some of the administrative challenges that come up can actually add a layer of problem-solving and excitement to the day-to-day work.
As a former teacher, I can honestly say that I’ve seen one of my administrators unclog a toilet and then comfort a stressed-out student almost back-to-back. (She washed her hands in-between.) While these two interactions don’t naturally fall to the administrator, the administrator is often the one who steps in to resolve issues quickly, and then briefs the appropriate person or department on the status of the situation(s). The problem-solving nature of the job, added to the interactions with students throughout the day, can really make for an enriching experience.
There is more to being an administrator than tracking down the the right staff member when something is broken. Conflict resolution is a huge part of the job. This could mean guiding students through peer-to-peer reconciliation or even dealing with tension among the staff. Administrators are often the ones facilitating discussions between a teacher that is experiencing conflict with a student’s adults.
As you can see, avoiding conflict won’t work for administrators. However, it’s a great opportunity to be a peaceful presence for your faculty, staff, and students. Doing this well matters. Real changes can come from reconciliation, and administrators get to play a role in that. Additionally, when conflict arises, it can be a great opportunity for an administrator to build trust both with the teacher he/she is supporting, but also with the students, adults, and community members involved.
Administrators lead through discipline.
Interestingly enough, some administrators enjoy the discipline portion of the job. Jed Lansman-Yakin, in the article The Best and Worst Things About Being a Principal, notes that by the time a student is in his office with a disciplinary write-up, “they are in serious need of an adult willing to listen to them and a voice they can believe in.” Oftentimes, the administrator is the one who gets to solidify that character-building moment with the truth of the matter and with grace. Again, doing this well matters.
Administrators develop teacher-leaders.
The influence of an administrator doesn’t stop with discipline. Administrators can be responsible for leading and organizing instructional planning and professional development for their staffs. They need to model what goal-setting and leveling up looks like by evaluating curricula and implementing best practices.
This inspires teachers to lead their classrooms and encourage each other to strive for greatness. When an administrator is leading at their best, they can start raising up other teacher-leaders. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they recruiting new administrators. Instead, it means that the administrator is fostering the leadership potential in each of their teachers where they are serving. Developing new teacher-leaders ensures communities that their schools will continue to thrive, even in the midst of conflict and uncertainty.
The role of the administrator cannot –and should not– be done in isolation. Building up teachers in order to be strong leaders allows for the right kind of collaborative culture to exist. Most importantly, the students benefit from experiencing the various ways staff members lead from within the building.
Administrators lead outside of the building.
A single school’s impact on a community can be powerful. Educational Leadership training helps educators develop perspective and increase their understanding from viewpoints outside of the classroom. When you’re an administrator, there are opportunities to work with diverse groups of stakeholders. Interacting with different people can make the work engaging and joy-filled. Collaborating with parents and local leaders creates buy-in and affects authentic change.
Administrators have the capability to impact students in a greater capacity when community members are on board. Connecting students to mentors and role models within the community, especially if those people are connected to the neighborhood or the school provides a tangible example of the importance of education, while still demonstrating servant leadership. Students feel empowered to be present when they know people in the community care about them and are there to encourage them.
Since administrators are responsible for ensuring that high-quality education exists for students in the entire building, there is a lot of focus on instruction and bringing in community supporters. In establishing, maintaining, and challenging the building’s culture, administrators end up influencing anyone who sets foot inside.
However, administrators make a difference beyond the school building. Students are present at school for a portion of the day, and then they go back to their communities. From implementing social/emotional curricula to influencing budgets, administrators can affect how their students are sent outside of the building and back to their homes.
While all of these reasons are good reasons to consider pursuing Educational Leadership training, at the end of the day, it’s still all about the students. Becoming an administrator is a lot of work, but it’s also not just up to you to make change. Teachers, whether you consider yourself a leader or not, you are in the business of leadership when it comes to your students.
If your calling is to remain in the classroom, that is great! You aren’t doing anything wrong by continuing to develop your strategies as a teacher. If you’re interested in learning more about educational leadership, visit us here.
This post was originally published on September 28, 2020. It has been updated to reflect current information.
— Vanessa Lane is the Content Marketing Lead at Concordia University and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. When she's not at work, she can be found playing with her kids or watching NBA basketball with her husband.
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