04 February 2007

If You've Got It, Flaunt It

A friend in Curriculum is on her journey to the true Dark Side: administration. She's getting ready to do her internship next year and then will seek out a permanent position as a principal. I have a strong sense that she will be a great admin...just as I have seen interns over the years who I knew didn't have a chance. I simply couldn't imagine that anyone in their right mind would hire them. This doesn't mean that they are bad teachers. I didn't think they had the right stuff to lead a school.

This brings up a question: What exactly is the "right stuff"? The "it" you can detect in those who seem so obviously suited to life in the classroom or life in the front office?

Jenny D. has been having some interesting posts and comments about expertise in the classroom. All of it makes me wonder if you bring out those qualities in teachers, once they have entered the classroom. Is the "magic" something you just either have or don't have? Something that can't be taught? On one level, I can easily reject this. I don't see teaching (or any other profession) as a "calling." What would be the point of education then, if every kid is just waiting for their special moment to tell them what to do with their lives? Why do so many people change careers during a lifetime? We can't say that there is some mystery about the paths we make and take. But on the other hand, I have known some teachers who truly have a gift for what they do...and I don't think it was something they were taught. They appear to have some instinct for teaching. They've got "it," and penicillin ain't gonna take it away.

I have been asking myself how I know that my friend will make a great principal. It's more than her high boiling point (she rarely gets flustered) and genuine love of being around kids. She has a lot of patience with bad situations and often knows the right things to say to diffuse tension and build some common ground. She knows the ins and outs of district diplomacy and can navigate the politics. She knows which battles to pick and the strategies to win them. There is a passion and drive within her to do what's best for kids. She understands teachers and good teaching. I don't know if there's anything that I've listed there which couldn't be developed in anyone, so maybe it's all about the balance of those things. I asked her this week if they were people in her cohort of wannabes that she thought weren't going to make it. She thought she could tell that a couple didn't have "it." But for those that do, I hope that they flaunt it...whatever it is.

P.S. Go and welcome Will Work for Chocolate, one of the few admin blogs out there.

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