Do you have a new position in your school? Have you been promoted into school administration? The shift to school administration from the classroom is no easy move. Between the teachers and the principal can be multiple administrative positions including Coordinator, Head of Department, Grade Level Coordinator, Vice-Principal, Curriculum Coordinator, Academic Coordinator, Project Manager, Educational Development, etc. with each school having it’s own organizational chart. Other times the shift into admin is not complete or immediate, for example I had one year where I was the coordinator, but also teaching for the entire year. It was like doing two jobs, and more often than not, administration can feel like two jobs even if you are not assigned classroom teaching responsibility. This is partly because of the transition and partly because of the increased level of responsibility and expectations that accompany the post.
Opportunity for Traction
When you are given increased responsibilities and dutites in your school beyond your classroom, you have an opportunity, the opportunity to benefit more students than you were able to in the classroom. However, in order to benefit more students you will have to work with BOTH the administration (of which you are now a member of) AND the teaching staff (of which you were formerly a member of), AS WELL AS students and parents.
Reflecting, thinking, problem-solving, and predicting will play a big role in your work because our words, decisions, and actions now affect more people. This is why our communication skills at work suddenly become much more important and critical than ever before. If all that thinking isn’t shared, filtered, challenged, adjusted, and supported by your leadership (admin) team, it won’t help teachers, students, and parents.
As you make the jump into school management and leadership, there are a number of invisible factors that will influence your ability to transition and succeed like your:
- work ethic – your effort and attitude towards your work at school, education in general, and the expectations that you hold yourself and others to
- ideals – the picture you have in your head of what it means to be a good leader or manager
- culture – the assumptions, systems, and understandings you/your school have about how people think, communicate, and make decisions
I say “invisible” because these are aspects of our personality, character, and thinking that we have varying levels of conscious of and may not have paid much attention to in the past. They are often the assumptions we have about what is normal and how the world works. These assumptions, however in the context of international schools, might be very different from our administrator and teacher colleagues. As you probably know, it is common to have a school leadership team of 3-4 different nationalities. Different nationalities means different educational backgrounds, expectations, and understandings. The work of management and leadership, often exists in these arenas and peoples’ subsequent concepts, behaviors, and responses related to motivation, success, drive, and fear. Be sure that you and your team are willing to identify, unpack, and process these differences and realign them to the school’s mission and vision.
The common assumptions about the position when a teacher is promoted into the driver’s seat of a new post include:
- you already know what you need to know
- you already know what you need to do
- it will be easy…at least easier than teaching
- you will be able to do better than others have done
- you will be able to make all the changes you can dream of
- the school should be amazing do to your efforts in in 3-6 months
Of course, feelings of fear, anxiety, and the excitement are also exist and you may admit to yourself that you
- don’t know what to do
- have not been in many leader/manager positions before
- feel a lot of pressure to perform and succeed, but don’t know where to start
- are scared you are going to make a lot of mistakes and ruin the school
If any of the above thoughts have occurred to you, don’t worry, they are completely normal. But the question is WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THE OPPORTUNITY? How are you going to fulfill the trust that has been assigned to you? Will you be able to maintain your character, your values, and your stamina under the spot light? Don’t worry, you will be fine if you do your best, learn from your mistakes, AND continue to study school leadership and management.