Tuesday, September 24, 2019

What I have learned since I returned to the classroom

As a teacher, years ago, I met a few administrators that needed a quick return to the classroom to see what it was like.  My teacher brain made me think that they had forgotten what it was like to be with students all day long.  The fact that those same people had actually walked in the shoes of a teacher at some point in their past didn't seem to matter too much.  Then I became a campus administrator.  And I am quite sure that teachers said the same thing about me.

I tried my best to put myself in the mindset of a teacher as I made campus decisions and took actions as a campus leader.  Even so, teachers probably said I had forgotten what it was like to be in a classroom all day long.  As much as I tried to think like a teacher, it just wasn't 100% possible.  I was a campus administrator with different responsibilities.

I realized that my job was different, but the idea of returning to the classroom stuck with me.  Could a successful principal return to the classroom?  Would a year or two teaching make me a better principal?  What if every principal spent a year in the classroom every five years?  These thoughts began to drive my belief that a campus administrator has two primary duties.

First, a principal must clear paths for teachers.  The principal must administer systems that support teaching and learning.  The principal must carefully choose what to add to a teacher's plate with minimal negative repercussions.  What things can simply be done for the teachers?  How can we protect planning time for teachers?  Principal's must ensure that teachers have clear information in a timely manner as much as possible.  Job #1 is to clear paths.

The second thing a principal must do is set the course for the continuous improvement of teaching and learning.  Professional learning should be at the top of the principal's priority.  Learning does not improve when we measure students.  Learning improves when teachers become better teachers based on those measurements.  Job #2 is to lead focused efforts that improve teaching and learning.

Three years ago, I started thinking about a return to the classroom.  While the primary reasons that drove my decision were not based on my need to see things from a teacher's perspective again, many things that a successful principal needs to do became abundantly clear.  Some of them, I get to pat myself on the back and say, "Good job, Me!"  Other things, I could've done better.  My thoughts about successfully clearing paths and leading professional learning efforts will be the topic of my writing.

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions about these posts!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Writing again!

I haven't posted anything here in over a year.  I have written several articles during that time, but I chose not to publish them.  Sometimes, they went unfinished.  Sometimes, I couldn't find the right words.  Sometimes, I didn't publish them because I felt like the words I wrote were too negative.  I felt like I was constantly finding things that were not going well.  After fifteen long months of observation and introspection, I am ready to publish again.

After 23 years in the education biz, I changed districts for the fourth time.  I felt like I understood that things could be different and I would be able to handle any/all the differences between my new district and my previous employers.  How different could it be between neighboring districts of similar size and demographics?  I was wrong.  I wondered if my lack of understanding the rationale for the differences was perhaps a negative vibe that had found its way into my soul as an educator.  (It hasn't.  I simply stand firm in my belief that we should strive for better!)

For years, I felt like I ran through each day with optimism and hope for improvement.  I tackled problems positively and laughed through the successes and mistakes.  I tried to model forward-thinking and I tried to squash TWWADDI (That's the way we've always done it) mentality.

I looked back through several years of posts.  The overarching theme has been my deep seated belief that we can always improve what we do in education.  Sometimes I highlighted great things that I witnessed.  Sometimes I made observations about current realities.  My posts in 2017 and 2018 seemed to have a deeper feeling of frustration.  While writing can be a therapeutic means of reflection, I made a choice to stop publishing my pieces.  I didn't want to write my opinions without sufficient evidence.

It has been two years.  I am ready to publish again.  I am ready to note wonderful things that are happening in my world.  I am also ready to examine things that need to be better.  In this profession, like no other that I know, we struggle with systemic change and we don't learn from our neighbors.

It has also been two years since my return to the classroom.  I did some things really well as a principal.  I also had some glaring weaknesses.  Don't we all!  At this point, I can see what I would do better as a campus leader more clearly than ever before.

I am really looking forward to this writing endeavor!