Sunday, January 8, 2017

Leaders Must Also Teach #leadupnow Guest Post

I loved being a teacher.  When I was hired as a principal I was very worried that I would lose touch of what it was like to be a teacher.  I heard stories of administrators who had become disconnected from what really happens in the classroom, and I was determined that was not going to be me.  The first two years of being a principal I walked through classes as much as possible and got to know the kids. I wanted to stay connected and by walking through classes and getting to know kids I felt a certain level of being connected but not as much as I wanted.  Teachers would ask if I ever missed teaching and I would tell them I really did; I missed it a lot. Toward the end of my second year I started thinking, why can’t I still teach? I loved being a principal but truly missed being in front of kids. Sure I was busy with principal stuff, but if I truly wanted to stay connected to the classroom, then the best way would be to find ways to still teach.  That is when I decided that I would substitute teach every class at my school for at least one hour. I also decided I would teach a math class once a week.

So during last school year I subbed for at least one hour every single class at my school, transitional kindergarten through 5th grade.  It was amazing. As a former middle school math teacher there was no way I could truly understand what it was like to teach kindergarten students without actually getting in front of them and teaching.

I learned many valuable lessons from teaching the classes.  These are just a few:

-Teaching classes shows others that you are willing to take risks
-Teaching shows students you care
-You gain a better appreciation for what teachers do on a daily basis
-You gain a better understanding of what teachers and students need which will help when decisions need to be made
-You can try some of the strategies that you have learned from observing other teachers

I am not sure if I will be able to sub in every class every year I am a principal.  This year I have given away time to teachers as prizes. I also still teach 4th grade math once a week.  I have made a commitment to myself that as long as I am in education I will find a way to get in front of a class of students and teach them.

I know there are many other educators that feel the same way.  For example, Jennifer Kloczko, Principal of Natomas Star Charter, teaches Choir and Star in Motion.  Joe Wood, Tech Director for Natomas Charter, teaches after-school enrichment classes like Minecraft.  The Assistant Superintendent of Education Services of my school district, Jamey Schrey, taught art to kindergarteners last year at my school.  These are just a few examples, there are many more educational leaders teaching at schools.

It doesn’t matter what role you are in.  If you are in educational leadership, it is important to stay connected to the classroom.  Being connected doesn’t mean you just walk through classrooms. The best way to truly stay connected is through actually teaching.  

It feels like a lot of decisions made for our classrooms are by lawmakers who have never taught, and there is a huge danger in that.  How can they know what schools need if they have never lived in a classroom? How can these people truly know what impact they will have if they don’t know what it is like to be a teacher?  That is why I urge anyone making decisions for kids to find a way to teach kids. It might not be weekly or even monthly, but find a way to get in front of kids and teach for at least an hour a few times a year.  What our teachers do on a daily basis is amazing. As educational leaders it is our job to know and remember what it is like to be a teacher so we can make the best decisions for all of our children.

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