Whenever I mention how long I’ve been teaching or the ways in which I’ve observed how we can improve the teaching profession and education overall, I’m almost always, like clockwork, met with the suggestion that I become an assistant principal or principal.
Is moving to administration the only logical next step in a teacher’s career?
In their discourse, those who suggest this transition cite the notable increase in salary and power.
But for me, the biggest conceptual challenge I have with moving into an administrative role is that I wouldn’t be working hands-on with kids every day. As much as I chide the way teachers are treated and paid, there is a sizable part of me that can’t fathom not having my own roster of students, my own classroom to decorate, and lessons to plan weekly and execute daily. Influencing children is a huge part of why I became a teacher in the first place. Will I still be able to do that as a school or district administrator?
On the surface, the answer is yes. In fact, in an administrative role I could effect much greater change for my students than if I were in the classroom; however, everything comes with a price and the price that I see paid is that administrators become out of touch with the genuine needs and wants of the very students and teachers whom they manage.
I want to run my own school because I have so many ideas from working as a classroom teacher about what works and what doesn’t — not just for me, for teachers and students. Yet I want to teach, too. It’s seems that those two arenas are mutually exclusive when, in my mind’s eye, they should be mutually dependent.
I’ve tried to mitigate this dichotomy by becoming a teacher-leader very early in my career and I’ve had wonderful experiences in these roles. But the problem with being a teacher-leader is that, oftentimes, this role requires the teacher-leader to be out of the classroom for a considerable amount of time. This could adversely affect his/her overall “Advanced” rating, and inadvertently jeopardize their teaching career.
The other problem with becoming a principal that I can’t quite wrap my mind around is all the bureaucratic red tape that comes with the position. I just want to teach and effect change in education on a higher level. I want my impact to be truly felt, not just reduced to some goals written down on a paper that won’t go past the superintendent’s desk.
I’m not alone in this thinking.
According to Liz Riggs,
In 2013, MetLife surveyed teachers and found that nearly 25 percent of teachers were interested in a hybrid role of teaching and some sort of leadership position, and that 84 percent of them were either “not very” or “not at all” interested in becoming a principal.
So I end this blog with the very question I asked in the opening: is becoming an administrator the only logical step from being a classroom teacher? I ask not just for myself, but for the slew of teachers in the NYC Department of Education who are faced with this same dilemma. I’m hoping we can get some much sought-after answers.