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From teacher to administrator

By Mary Bigelow

Posted on 2017-07-14

I have assumed an administrative position in my high school. Although I’m sad to leave the classroom, I’m looking forward to this challenge. I have the credentials but not much experience, so I need insights on making the transition. —C., New York

Congratulations on your new professional adventure! If you have not formally been assigned a mentor, find an informal one in your school district or through social media. Networking is an important part of being a leader, and social media provides many ways to work with and learn from others.

The best leaders I’ve worked with spent a lot of time communicating with both students and teachers: listening attentitively (even if you’ve heard the same comment or complaint before), explaining the rationale for decisions, celebrating the achievements of students and teachers, and being approachable in the hallways and classrooms. They also had a sense of humor and the ability to differentiate between the trivial and the important.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with events and commitments before, during, and after school. One of my administrative mentors would come to school early to check the calendar and plan out his day of classroom visits, meetings, and other duties (in pencil, since unanticipated events would occur). Keep a log or journal of what you do and reflect often on what you’re learning.

You can be a resource for the science faculty. You have experienced a teacher’s responsibility for safety in the labs and security in the storage areas. You know how much behind-the-scenes work science teachers do and are aware of the hazards (and possible liabilities) of scheduling non-science classes or study halls in lab classrooms.

It’s eye-opening to go beyond your own classroom to viewing the school as a larger system. Ask questions and be willing to observe, listen, and learn.



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