Reflections of a First Year Principal – Should Principals Teach
Should principals be required to teach? When I made the decision to go into administration I told myself I would always teach at least one class (even if I didn’t have to) and I envisioned it would be an academic class. I remembered reading a post by Chris Wejr Principals ARE Teachers where he talked about this exact topic. After three years of being an assistant principal, and now into my first year as a principal I sit back and reflect upon this question I am not sure if my original position still holds true.
What do I love the most about my job? The answer is easy, I get the most enjoyment out of spending time working with students. The second aspect of my job that I love the most is working with all teachers, teachers new to the profession or a hardened veteran learning how to integrate new technology into his/her lessons. It definitely is NOT the meetings, district responsibilities, paperwork, discipline or any of the many other tasks administrators are asked to perform.
Why do more principals not teach? Why don’t unions demand principals teach one class? I recently posed these questions to the speaker at conference I was at and he got rather upset and defensive right away. His arguments were that principals can still be educational leaders without being in a classroom, that they still understand good educational pedagogy, and can recognize the difference between quality and inadequate educational practices. The fact that just because they are no longer in a classroom doesn’t mean they are somehow diminished as educational leaders. While I tend to agree with his arguments I am left with questions:
- How do you help a teacher with technology integration when the last time you were in a classroom there were no Smartboards, 1:1 classrooms did not exist, never mind paperless classrooms, GAFE (Google Apps for Education) hadn’t been implemented and marks were still kept on in a mark book not online for parents to access 24/7?
- Will you really understand the challenges teachers face when implementing new division, state or provincials mandates if you do not experience them yourself?
If my number 1 job is to be the instructional leader, and not a building manager, should I not be in the trenches with the staff, experiencing what they are going through?
I believed whole heartedly principals need to teach, but as I get immersed in the job I am finding my time pulled in numerous directions to the point my teaching is falling behind. As I am away for various meetings or professional development, the instruction that my classes receive is not the same as it would be had I been present to teach it myself. Is this enough to change my opinion? No. Perhaps my opinion on this topic will change in the future but there are many variables that need to be taken into consideration. Presently I still believe principals need to teach. My previous reflection piece talked about principals supporting their teachers and I feel I am better able to support my teachers if I experience part of what they experience day to day.