What if administrators still had to teach?
Just as my last post was not meant as an indictment of parents in general, this one is not meant as one of administrators. Nevertheless, I have often thought, that in an ideal world, every administrator would still have to teach at least one class. I know that in many cases this would be completely impractical, and I am sympathetic to the workload of administrators. I have seen high school principals who are at school all day every day of the week, and then at school events--boys and girls basketball and hockey games, band and choir concerts--every evening including Saturday. I am not one who envies the life of a school administrator.
But teachers, like me, can sometimes find the actions of administrators maddeningly obtuse, because we depend on them for some things, and because we are under their thumbs. Administrators are the ones to whom teachers frequently need to go when they are having problems with a student or a class. In our school, for example, only the principal can mete out any meaningful discipline. Only the principal can assign detention for most infractions, suspend students, or remove them from their classes. During my career I have witnessed situations when teachers were affected by some problem and nearly the entire faculty was calling for action, but the reaction of administrators was, "Ho-hum." I have also witnessed situations in which an administrator is directly affected, and action was immediate. I have witnessed major discrepancies in the treatment of students who have treated teachers with disrespect vs. the consequences for the same students when they have treated an administrator with disrespect. Administrators are also the people who make policies for teachers to follow, and sometimes those policies are blatantly ridiculous.
Most administrators have been classroom teachers earlier in their careers, so it might seem that that would be sufficient. The problem is that they tend to forget what that experience was like over time. I can't blame them for that, because I do it, too. One of the things I love about our summer break is that it gives me a chance to re-charge and come up with new assignments and new ways of teaching or reinforcing material in my classes. The deeper into summer I get, however, the more unrealistic I can become. There have been times when I have come up with a "brilliant" idea during the summer, only to have it turn out to be a miserable failure when I actually try in out in the reality of the classroom in October. Sometimes I will find myself thinking, "Why in the world did I think that was going to work?" Just a month or two away from the classroom, and I can become as impractical as anyone.
That's why I think it would be wonderful if administrators each had to teach just one class. And not an A.P. class. In fact, it would be ideal if it were a basic class. Nothing brings home the reality of the classroom faster than dealing with some of those basic students.
Once again, I want to say that I don't think administrators' jobs are easy, and I realize that I am giving a very one-sided view of the relationship between them and teachers. I might want a principal to take strong action against a student, but I'm not the one who has to worry about being sued if a bleeding-heart judge decides that the action was inappropriate or that due process wasn't adequately followed. I understand that administrators often have pressure to act differently from every conceivable direction--from teachers, from the public, from the school board, and from other administrators. I have dealt with angry parents, but never on the scale they have. I also realize that some teachers expect the principal to do a great job maintaining school discipline while they seem unwilling to do very much about it themselves. No, I don't want to be too critical of administrators, because I've never walked a mile in their shoes. But since I have to follow the rules that they make--sometimes arbitrarily--I just wish they would have to walk a little ways in mine.