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.
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