Whether fair or not, I have been cast as the anti-administrator teacher. It is a role I accept; yet my perspective on things is always changing. I stand by my original posts on the matter and truly don’t think we need administrators as they currently function in most schools. It has been my experience with administrators I have worked for and with that there are two kinds of administrators. There are those that are administrators and those that are leaders. There is a clear distinction between the two and they both have a profoundly different impact on their schools.
Leaders inspire rather than require
A true leader inspires the teachers in their building to do great things. They know how to motivate and that motivation often comes from building trust and a sense of community within a school. The truly effective leaders know the role culture plays in inspiring growth and improvement in a school. They do not speak in terms of requirements and forced initiatives. While there is an element of required pieces within a public school system, a true leader inspires their staff beyond just putting their feet to the fire of mandates.
Leaders are visible
Another aspect of a leader is their physical presence in the building. How often do teachers see them in the halls and in their classrooms? How often do the students see them in school and after school events? Regardless of if it is just a drop in to say good morning, leaders understand that they need to be seen by their staff and students daily and in some cases more than once a day. A leader does not hole up in their office for days on end. If students or parents would have trouble picking the building administrators out in lineup they are not an effective building leader.
Leaders focus on kids not adults
This should come as a no brainer, but clearly is not for many. A leader makes building decisions based on what is best for the kids not for the adults. Yes, the needs of the adults in the building are crucial for creating a positive school culture. However, those needs should come secondary to those of the children we are entrusted to teach. Leaders need to have their decisions guided by the best learning outcomes for students rather than being guided by a pack staff members angling for self-interests.
Leaders are transparent
There are no secrets and no hidden agendas in the office of a leader. They involve every member of their staff in the decision making process not just a select privileged few. While small group or teams may be selected to represent the staff by way of department heads or team leaders, the entire staff is aware and informed about all building decisions. Leaders honor confidentiality but don’t allow secrecy to breed division and distrust among their staff.
Leaders are teachers
Leaders should be teachers within the building at every chance they can get. This can be teaching a class when a sub doesn’t get called in or supervising a club for students. School leaders that teach are the best models for the teachers in their buildings. They are the most credible and are able to stay grounded in the classroom and with the most important part of the school, which are the students.
Leaders love their school
Some of the most effective school leaders I have ever encountered speak with such passion and love for their schools. By school I mean they love everything from the building itself to the people inside and the surrounding community. They care that their building looks great and take pride in having people visit. Rather than rushing home after the last bell, they stay to watch the students perform, play and compete and stand there proudly watching and celebrating. True leaders feel like the parent of a tremendous family and their unconditional love is obvious and contagious.
In full disclosure, I am not administrator nor do I play one on television. However, I have worked with and discussed this idea of the building administrator’s role with literally thousands of people around the country. There are great school leaders out there in schools but I fear they might be in the minority. I still believe we do not need traditional administrators but desperately need school leaders. If you find yourself working for a great administrator be sure to tell them you appreciate them. If you don’t…send them this post…but leave my name off. J