05 November 2006

Politicking

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for the election to happen and all of the political ads and signs to go away. There is enough diplomacy year-long in my job.

A friend asked me on Friday if I'd consider a job in administration. "You could make such a difference there." The bottom line is that I just don't have the stomach for all of the politics involved with that role as it is today. Being a principal is not focused on teachers and kids as it needs to be. It would be all too easy to blame the administrators themselves for that, but I don't think it's quite that simple. Schools aren't autonomous units anymore. A principal isn't in charge of hiring and setting the agenda. Instead, s/he is charged with various federal, state, and district mandates to meet. Various parent and community groups require participation. Is there time to be an instructional leader? I don't see that, and that would be the part I'd find interesting.

Another friend is starting on her path to principalhood. After a few years in Curriculum, she's decided that if she's going to be responsible for the kinds of things we're asked to do, she might as well be paid accordingly. I told her that I envision her like Shawn Alexander last year. He was hoping for to renogotiate his contract and make more money...and on his way to the NFL rushing title last year, his mantra was "Cut the checks. Cut the checks." as he'd sprint down the sideline. She will be successful as an administrator. She is a good global thinker and while she doesn't enjoy all of the politics of the job, she can negotiate and make things work well. I tip my hat to her as we need more administrators like that.

When I look at all of the special interest groups, teachers, students, parents, and so on that make up a school, an administrator's job is daunting. Everyone is so focused on their slice of the pie that they often don't step back to take a broader view of the school. I think that modern schools are going to have to let go of old-fashioned notions of what a principal is. I think we're going to have to develop teacher leaders to take on the instructional piece of the principal's job and find ways to promote communication and understanding between the various components of a school. I'd really like to see if there's a model out there to examine. I know that we aren't the only ones struggling with how to get past the politics and make a difference where it counts: kids.

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