Being an educational leader

As an administrator, one of my main roles is to be an educational leader in the school. Some days I’m not sure what exactly that means. In fact, over the past few weeks, I’m not sure exactly what I’m doing in this position and could have just as easily called this “Is it okay to cry now?”! 

As the new year approached, I was looking forward to having a chance to really make some headway with some of the things that we have been addressing at the school, building on the new Code of Conduct that we have and addressing some areas that needed to be addressed. Instead, I’ve been taking heat over having the gym ceiling painted – it had the names of grads from previous years but wasn’t my choice – and just seeming to be out of align with things. 

I know it’s only just over 2 weeks into the year but, for the first time in my career, I’m not sure I’m up to the challenges that lay ahead. I know that, each on their own isn’t really that big of a problem but things don’t seem to coming one by one. In fact, things are happening much faster than I’ve seen in previous years and by the time I know it, the weeks over and I’m trying to figure out where the week has gone. 

Walking the talk

One of the things that I’ve always tried to do is “Walk the talk”. As an educational leader, I feel that it is important that I don’t just say “Well, this is how I think you should do it” or “Try this or that”. Instead, I want to model different teaching strategies, assessment strategies, the use of technology in learning and having an understanding of student learning. I know that, sometimes, it can be a tall order but that is part of leadership. 

Another part of this is allowing others to lead in areas of their strengths and being able to recognize that, in many instances, you aren’t necessarily the best person to be directing. Instead, you need to allow others, using their strengths and talents, to use them to help build towards the ideal of creating the best possible education for all children. 

The Eye of the Storm

As the days rush by, it seems almost impossible to get any type of bearing on what is happening and where things need to go next. I can honestly say, I’ve stood in my office wondering what exactly I need to do next. It’s not like I don’t have a list that goes out the door but there seems to be a barrage of things that just doesn’t stop and the requests and paperwork are non-ending. With all this going on, I often wonder “When do I get to be that Educational Leader I so desperately wanted to be?”  

No, really. When is it that, as an administrator that teaches, I will find the time to do my walk-throughs, discuss lessons with teachers, meet with teachers about their Professional Growth Plans, discuss with the new teachers (5 in my building this year) how things are going and just simply be present in the school? I made a pact with myself that, to be a leader, I had to be visible and, to be visible, I had to be out of my office. So far, I’m not doing so well. With a new vice-principal, I’m trying to model how you need to be visible to the students and the staff but, some days, well, it’s just not happening. 

Is it possible?

I always have thought that part of what has made me a better administrator is the fact that, each day, I go into a classroom and try to capture the attention of students to help them grow and stretch, to ask themselves questions and question what is going on in their lives and the world around them. As I look at the weeks coming up and ALL the items that are clogging my ical todo list, I wonder if it has reached the time when being a teaching principal may not be feasible if I want to continue to an educational leader of quality. 

Or is it just the beginning of the year madness? Once all the various things fall into place, I’ll see that this was no different than other years and, really, I’m just as able to do the things I see as necessary as a leader as I was before. Or was I? You see, that’s the crux? Would I be able to perform my role better if, in fact, I didn’t teach? Although it would distance me from the students, would it really affect my ability to perform my duties as an administrator? And are these duties different from being an educational leader? Should the two be separate titles or jobs? One where the administration of the school is the focus and the other where the development of teachers is the focus? Or should I even worry about the development of teachers? Is that the role for someone else? But, if I’m doing walk-throughs and classroom visits, isn’t teacher growth inherent in that type of relationship? 

I just don’t know

Really, I don’t. My incredible PLN on Plurk has been there for me over this past few weeks, encouraging me as I struggle through this. They have been offering advice and just supporting me as I ask questions and look for some insights. As an administrator, it isn’t always easy to discuss these things with anyone. In fact, it is darn near impossible to do that without creating a bigger mess. It’s not like I’m looking at throwing in the towel or anything but there is a need to create some kind of balance which isn’t there right now and, given the different things going on, I’m not sure how to find it. 

I want to be the best leader I can be. At times like this, I search for ways to improve what I’m doing and seek out the council of others hoping, that through this, I can continue to develop myself and continue to be an example to those around me of what life-long learning is all about.

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10 thoughts on “Being an educational leader

  1. Laurie Fowler

    Kelly,
    Hang in there! This is an excellent post. The discussion you have with yourself is exactly the reason, I chose not to continue to pursue jobs in administration. I found that Professional Development was more of my niche because I could work with teachers, do model lessons, teach technology stuff as it is needed, and be in classrooms more. Take a deep breath and remember you do have all of us on Plurk to support you.

    Laurie Fowler
    Tuscaloosa, AL

    Reply
  2. Heather Dowd

    I think that the very fact that you are asking these questions and reflecting means you are doing something right. I have never been an administrator, but sometimes it seems so easy to stand on the side and say what needs to be done. But, I believe that when you are the leader, things are much more complicated. I hope you find the balance you strive as the school year progresses.

    Heather Dowd

    Reply
  3. diane

    The fact that you are questioning your practices and continually trying to understand & improve makes you the best possible type of leader: one who leads by example. Please don’t give up – we need more administrators like you in our schools.

    Reply
  4. Pat

    I think the fact that you are asking these questions makes you a wonderful administrator because you care. I see that you are modeling behaviors as well as delegating work that can be better done by others and knowing when that needs to be done. I think you will always be walking that fine line and there will always be that attitude of “you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. The best principal I ever had was a lot like you and that is when I learned the most about being a leader myself. If it hadn’t been for him, I don’t think I would have ever been chose Teacher of the Year and a finalist in the district (years after he was no longer my principal). He taught me to continually grow professionally and believe in myself. As long as you do the best you can and don’t betray your own values, you are doing a great job! Thanks for being that rare breed of administrators that really care.

    Reply
  5. Ann Oro

    It’s hard when you feel like things are piling up around you. I don’t think it is necessarily a part of being a teaching administrator. I felt that way when I was the computer and math teacher for the last four years. I was never getting to work with the teachers on better ways to use our equipment and repairs were completed slower than I like them to be. I’m back to being “just” the computer teacher. It is a relief to have the extra time to get back to keeping the electronic ship running well. I really miss my math students and I’m sure you’d really miss your teaching duties. Give it time. Let the beginning of the year crazies settle down. Hopefully things will go back to coming in ones instead of tens.

    Reply
  6. Nadine N

    Kelly, This is a great post. I do want to be in administration and your stories give me a real sense of the struggles of the position. I agree with your position that a principal’s primary job is to be an educational leader, giving him or her the opportunity to make a real difference with the students. After all, the students are the real reason why we are all here. The “management” part of your job gets in the way of what you are really there to do. Your struggle sounds frustrating and I hope you have some significant moments when you realize how much you mean to your school community, and how valued your leadership is in terms of your students.

    Reply
  7. educate2free

    Leadership in general is supposed to be about inspiring people to take action to produce great results. A school leader has so many aspects to tackle that it is understandably difficult to balance and prioritize all the thousands of things that need to be done, but as educators we know that it must not only be done, but it has to be done, because so many families depend on us to crank out the next best generation. I know that it’s hard, but I’m sure you are doing a fantastic job…at least having a plan that puts instruction first is a great first step.

    Reply
  8. Pingback: 2010 in review « Educational Discourse

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