Saturday, October 22, 2011

Paying your dues

I was talking to a mentor the other day about my future prospects, oh and another miserable excuse for an interview. Honestly, I’m not very good at interviews.
Anyway, the point I want to make concerns some of the advice she gave me. It seems that many districts expect a new administrative candidate to go through the Assistant Principal position first. It is possible to skip that step, but it will often make life difficult down the road.
This doesn’t sound too bad. I would expect that a person be able to be an assistant first, but that is assuming that the assistant position is similar to the principal position just a jr. It isn’t. The job description in wikimedia lists a wide variety of duties.
They are primarily responsible for scheduling student classes, ordering textbooks and supplies, and coordinating transportation, custodial, cafeteria, and other support services. They usually handle student discipline and attendance problems, social and recreational programs, and health and safety matters. They also may counsel students on personal, educational, or vocational matters. With the advent of site-based management, assistant principals are playing a greater role in ensuring the academic success of students by helping to develop new curricula, evaluating teachers, and dealing with school-community relations—responsibilities previously assumed solely by the principal.
This description actually sounds pretty good. However, in many schools the assistant principal is the dean of discipline. When I studied for my administrative certificate I don’t remember a single course on discipline. There was leadership, budgets, law, curriculum, and supervision, but no discipline.
So I wonder why is it that we expect our administrators to be masters of discipline? (Not that they shouldn’t be able to handle some of the most serious cases, but why are they the end all be all that goes wrong in school?)
The dean of discipline seems to spend most of his time dealing with piddly stuff. Dress code violations, class disruptions, disrespect, and such. Yes, he spends a good amount of time on more serious issues, but honestly why do we have to pay our dues dealing with stuff that shouldn’t even be a problem.
I’ll be the first to admit that my classrooms tended to be a bit loud. It drove me crazy because my personal active engagement tends to make me more quiet, which seems to be the opposite of the norm. So as the noise level increased in my classroom I would naturally either tune it out; In which case I’m sure there was probably a lot of social interaction happening with my students that I missed. Or if I didn’t tune it out I would try to restore piece and quiet (so I could hear myself think you know). If I forgot that I meant for this to happen I might have even raised my voice once or twice, (one of the 10 ways to be a terrible teacher).
The thing is I encouraged this behavior (not the yelling part), even if it sometimes drove me crazy. I wanted my students to be engaged. I wanted them to talk to each other. So I rarely had a student who got into trouble for talking, moving, doodling, or any one of a number of actions that seem to add up to detentions, referrals, and trips to the Assistant Principal’s Office.
Now my point is: Why do we need to pay our dues by enforcing silly, counter productive rules? Why don’t we pay our dues by working with teachers to create a positive engaging atmosphere in the school? One where students learn to appreciate and perhaps even enjoy school.
For more of an idea of what I am talking about I would suggest reading Vicki Davis’ post below.
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kb said...

I actually took the job of asst principal as an interim step for one year-supposed to be k-12 tech coord. next year. I thought I might have the chance to infuse some of what I learned in my program into the job but most of my day is spent mired in the job duties described in the wikipedia def.
Everything I touch seems to be a problem and if you're dealing with an emotional person it's a crisis- it is a good learning experience but the opportunities to really change the educational process so far are few I'm holding out hope there will be more

Brendan said...

So then the questions becomes, "how do we empower teachers when our own assistant principal isn't even empowered?"