Saturday, July 4, 2009

About some of those Administrators

Former Principal Niki Hayes writes to us from Texas.

1) It gets tiresome hearing factual data be "explained" away with education spin and knowing that legislators and business "leaders" take that spin at face value. But, then, it seems that everyone in decision-making roles is into spin these days. We thus go in circles and get nowhere.

The takeover of urban districts by mayors is one effort to "fix" systems, but it's still one government entity running another government entity. I maintain the public school system has run its course and a total transformation in education has to be implemented. Instead, we're going to put a bigger (federal) government entity in charge of everything with national standards and more layers of bureaucracy. My own personal efforts now are to push for CHOICE in every way, whether it's within a school or district regarding pedagogy/curriculum (traditional vs reform), and for choice of school environments (charter, private, vouchers, etc.).

2) As an administrator who earned her credentials at Gonzaga in the early 1990's, I can tell you we had a few lousy instructors and some really good ones. The woman who taught us legal issues nearly scared all of us away because she was so clear about the laws that work against education today. Anne Fox was my adviser and she later became state supt of Idaho for one term; she was excellent in training me about the realities of administration. Dr. Fox asked each one of the 16 original members of my group why he/she was getting an administrative certificate. I was the the last one to answer and I was the only one who said I wanted to be a principal so I could affect curriculum and productivity. The rest said, flatly, they wanted "out of the classroom" and into a district office position. In essence, they weren't concerned about making life better for learners, just for themselves. At least they were honest. And, their dollars were gratefully accepted by the admissions office for the graduate program.

It seemed to me that those individuals who think they want to be principals need to have a very different path to take in coursework. Those who want a seat in the "district office" need to take a different path. Regardless of whichever path is taken, ALL administrators who want to work in education should have to renew their certificate every five years by working for one-half a day, for at least one quarter (preferably one semester), with a regular ed classroom. My only misgiving would be the potential damage they could do to those trying to learn from them.

After being out of the classroom for 10 years and then going back into teaching for the two years prior to my retirement, I was a stunned. (My doctor had ordered me out of the principal's job because of physical health issues.) I was always a maverick as a principal, and one administrator told me once my "problem" was I thought too much like a teacher, but I was still ashamed to learn that I had been part of a system that helped make teachers' AND STUDENTS' lives unnecessarily difficult.

I just keep picturing children as collateral damage in our present culture of defined ideologies that are supported by those in power or with massive money resources. We will suffer because of our willingness to have allowed this to happen.


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