Do We Need Principals?

Tonight during an #edchat on Twitter, the group was discussing leadership in education. Partially joking, but with some level of honest curiosity I sent the follow tweet out:

I got some initial kick back that schools certainly need a principal and could not imagine functioning without. I poked back as a means to stretch my own thinking and not necessarily to be perceived as an anti-administration rant. With that being said, here are a few of the arguments that came out and some of my initial thoughts.

“We need principals for discipline.”
This bothers me a little bit, because I always thought of discipline as a teacher’s job. Now, there are certainly times when things escalate and you need to bring in the “big guns” or reinforcements. My own school has three administrators and a school resource officer (school police). They are called in to deescalate situations and in some cases remove students from the classroom. My question is, why does this have to be the role of the administration? Can we not create a disciplinary advisory committee of sorts that handles this? What about this committee being teachers who are trained in such situations and provide that support? This group could also be the one that makes collective decisions on actions taken in terms of consequences and next steps.

“Someone has to do the schedules and plan the meetings.”
Let’s be honest, most of the meetings we attend are a waste of our collective time and only exist for the sake of saying they exist. A fair amount of the information in our meetings could be disseminated in a brief email. In terms of the schedules, I think we could again utilize a small group of teachers who are good at that sort of thing. I work with a woman that does all of the scheduling for our team’s special days and testing days. She has a brain that works that way and does it very well. Why can we not just tap these people to do this?

“We need administrators to evaluate the teachers.”
Yet again, why does this have to be an administrator job? Yes, I understand that teachers need to be evaluated and that often impacts if people keep their jobs or in some cases their pay. However, this model does not actually promote what it should, which is improved teaching and learning. When teachers are evaluated by administrators that are not practicing teachers, it is difficult to value their insight. On the other hand, if a peer observes and provides feedback that comes from a place of credibility and in most cases more honesty. Why can we not create a culture of openness and reflection where peer feedback is part of the norm? If that were the case, would we still need administrator evaluations?

Now, I am not an administrator and don’t even play one on TV. My opinions are completely based on my own experiences with administrators and the experiences of those I have talked with about the topic. I know there are many more things that administrators do that is not mentioned in this post and I am not exactly advocating that we do away with them completely. I am just wondering if there is a better way. The best administrators I know miss the classroom and the teaching. If you talk to teachers describe the worst administrators they often talk about how out of touch they are and not connected to what is really going on in the building. Would all of these problems be solved if schools were self-governed by the teachers in the building? Could we indicate a small handful of “go-to people” in times of emergency like the early days of the Roman Republic? I anticipate I will reflect more on this, but would love to hear your thoughts…can a school function without an administrator?