Tonight an interaction between two tweeters has me wondering about the whole educational administration thing. See, right now I’m working in two different buildings, just finished a stint of 2 plus weeks of full-time teaching and am in the middle of sorting out some pretty interesting things that have been going on in different aspects of the two schools. When I signed on to be an administrator, none of the people I had seen as administrators had done anything of the sort. In fact, in my short 20 years in education, I’ve been somewhat disappointed by administrators.
Today, according to what I have read on many different sites, all you have to do is blog, tweet and be connected and you’re a great administrator. I read about how important it is to connect to bring ideas to the school, about how great it is when we bring our parents in and collaborate and we need to share the vision of education. Really? Then I’ve been connected for too long or I’m in the wrong place. In fact, then I’ve been in the wrong place most of my career.
Parents aren’t easy to engage
It’s hard to get parents engaged in schools. I’ve been leading School Community Council (SCC) workshops at the division and talking about them at the provincial level for a few years and it’s hard work getting parents engaged, to get them to discuss school improvement and work at bettering what is happening at schools. If you have parents that do that, you are blessed/lucky. My experience, in a number of settings beyond just one school, is that is not the case and it’s not from lack of trying. It’s partly that parents are busy and doing other things. It’s partly they don’t really believe that they’re voices will be listened to and taken seriously. It’s partly because they don’t know what they really want. That’s my experience from working with hundreds of parents. It may not be your experience and I could have it all wrong.
Being connected is not teaching.
Being connected, blogging and twittering will not make you a great administrator just as it won’t make you great teacher. No amount of online connectiveness will give you that initial caring that drives teachers to help students. And really, I don’t check to see if my teachers blog or twitter or whatever. I check to make sure they are engaged in the process of learning. Are they using the tools they have to engage the children in their classrooms in learning. See, not all teachers have access to tech tools. In fact, not all teachers have whiteboards. It’s not about that at all but about engaging the learners in the process of learning.
See, for one hour every day, I enter the classroom and try to engage grade 12 students in learning Canadian History. We have one computer lab which, often times, is booked so some of the tools that I’ve relied upon, like the wiki I use to share videos and other materials, isn’t available all the time. Blogging would be nice but…… there are a number of students who still have dialup so even assigning it to do at home isn’t an option. We have wifi but, well, it’s flakey and not reliable. I could have them use their phones, and have on occasion, but many don’t have data plans. My whiteboard is a smaller variety so I rely on storytelling, group jigsaw assignments so we can use the 6 library computers and other information in our library and a number of other methods to engage these students, right after lunch, in the history of our country. I connect it to the BHP buyout discussion taking place in the news, to items I find in the paper, to articles I read in magazines and any other means I can to engage them in thinking about the role of history in their lives. I just chuckle when I read about how we need to “use the tools our students are using to engage them….” since many of my students would rather be out hunting or quadding. When was the last time you were asked to go deer hunting by your students?
Too much window dressing…..
I rarely get time to do any writing lately – I was going to list what I have been doing lately but that’s whining. I do this because I believe that it’s important, that the students in these two schools deserve the best education we can deliver and, without a doubt, I’m one of the few people who could actually do this job. Why? Because without having someone else tell me that what I do is important, I know it is. Because I am willing to do what many others won’t do, make tough decisions about learning, curricula and teaching. Because I get the importance of inclusion, DI and the supports that are needed to make it work. Because many other administrators talk but have so little experience in actually bringing about lasting change in the learning and lives of the students in their schools. From my experience, if you can sum up your contributions to the school and learning in quaint little anecdotes, little stories about touching tales and quips about snippets of days, then you really don’t get it. See, for the most part, I can’t share what happens in my days because it’s confidential, too difficult to describe and, really, there’s no quaint way to tell the story. It’s about the lives, spirits and souls of the people in the two buildings as we begin to forge a new direction and the interconnectedness here.
Sharing my stories
I guess I find that many of the things that others write about to be, well, common sense and something that is within my realm of experience for too long to be thought of as actually unusual. Whether it’s talking with parents about a student with learning needs, helping parents with students with special needs, creating learning spaces for students, finding supplies and supports for teachers who need them or questioning people in positions of responsibility about programming and support, it’s what an administrator does because it’s what’s best for children. And I believe that is what defines my job – doing what’s best for children.
I’m not always popular
I’ve been bashed a number of times. Even have had my house egged on several occasions. Had my own children feel the wrath of people because I did what I believed was best for children. I don’t apologize for doing it but I also know that I’ll be bashed. What’s right isn’t always what’s popular.