The Good Admin — #EdChat Summary: 4/3/12

Topic: What should a good Administrator look like & how can we get there from here?

Great discussion this week. I could barely keep up with all the comments that were flying around, and I did my absolute best to collect my favorite tweets. Still, I know that I missed some good ones while I was responding to @mentions or copying a particular gem over to MS Word. So be sure to check the archive when it’s up!

I don’t have many of my own thoughts to add to this one (again: I’m not a teacher), so I’ll keep the introduction very brief and instead dive right into the main themes, of which there are many  this week. Enjoy!

Main themes from the discussion:

  • This is subjective. In any discussion of “the good,” we need to keep in mind that it is a very subjective concept. It will be differently defined by different people at different times. Still, there are some general qualities that “good” administrators should have, and this week’s discussion talked about most of them.
  • Administrators are torn between two worlds. To be an administrator sort of means to serve two masters (at least!). They must feel a responsibility to the teachers, hopefully because they rose from their ranks. But at the same time they are now answering to school boards and politics. This often entails knowledge that is not available to all teachers, and will at times necessitate some difficult, non-optimal decisions. Teachers need to keep this in mind before criticizing administrators.
  • We place a lot of demands on administrators. One thing that was very obvious this week was that we ask a lot of our administrators. We want them to be many things, often at the same time. But we also want them to be able to change gears seamlessly and intuitively. This is no easy feat. We need to keep that in mind during any discussion of what would make a “good” administrator.
  • Good administrators were once (and possibly still are) teachers. This is a big one. Not only should administrators come from the ranks of teachers (that experience is essential), but there was some talk about how principals should still teach. A few people mentioned working with teacher-principals, and the experience seemed to be positive. It is a common complaint among employees that their boss doesn’t remember what it was like to do their job. I can see how that would get more frustrating (and more important) in the education world. The question is: do principals have the time? And, if not, how can we make room for it?
  • Good administrators are leaders, which means they need autonomy. Teachers want their administrators to be leaders, not just paper-pushers and middle-managers. They want them to have a real vision for improving the school and helping students learn. And, of course, they want them to act on it. This means that we need to entrust our administrators with at least some amount of autonomy and security. Just like how teachers need to be trusted to “think outside the box” from time to time, we need to let our administrators take risks.
  • Conflict mediation and communication are key. One of the main jobs of an administrator is to bridge the gaps between all the various interested parties in a school. That entails a lot of communication and some good mediator skills. It also means that logistics and other qualifications can sometimes come second in importance. We can’t ignore the “human” side of school administration – just like you wouldn’t want a teacher that ignored the unique personalities of their students.
  • It is important to keep your focus; your priorities. Bottom line: the number one job of an administrator is to help improve the school so that students learn better (and want to learn more). This particular job is quite broad and quite difficult. But that’s the most important bit of an administrator’s job. And it’s important they never lose sight of it, despite all the distractions that assail them each day.

My favorite tweets from the discussion:

mbfxc Personally, I’ve always wanted my administrators to be the lead teachers in the school!

jrichardson30 Administrators should have one day where they don’t set foot in their office and put up a sign that says, “Out and about learning with my colleagues.”

davidwees I’ve noticed that the good administrators I have known focused on relationships first and the logistics second.

MsRossEnglish So frustrating! I have seen my admin maybe three times in my class this year. Busy dealing with “other” things.

PrincipalPC Great administrators lead with kids first and their job security second.

edunators Good administrators have to have conflict mediation skills for settling parent, student, and teacher conflicts.

davidwees One of the reasons we don’t have enough excellent administrators is that many excellent candidates want to remain teachers.

drdouggreen Good administrators encourage risks and always keep a slush fund to support good ideas when they show up.

mrsjjee I think it’s also easy to get swept up in an “we all need iPads” mentality. Administrators need to have the school’s immediate concerns first.

vpigreenie I have worked in 2 districts where administrators were required to teach one class per semester. Worked well. Kept them present.

RobertBorgersen Good administrators will do PD just like we do, not because they have to, but because they want to.

jricharson30 We must remember that it isn’t about test scores or “our school compared to theirs.” It’s about kids loving to learn.

betavt Looks like administrators, from all the tweets, need to be just about everything to everyone. Is that a realistic expectation?

cybraryman1 The key role of an administrator should be to ensure the best facilitation of learning for their students.

MertonTech My idea of a good administrator: Someone I can take a problem to and get it fixed.

JohnTSpencer Too often leaders are beaten into compliance in the name of liability management. They lose the fire and end up managing instead.

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To follow the complete discussion, look for the full archive here.  They’re usually posted up by the end of the week.

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