Four years ago, I made the transition from high school math teacher to district administrator. It was bittersweet, because I felt energized teaching high school students, very much enjoyed interacting with my co-workers, but at the same time felt like I couldn't pass up an opportunity in the same district to possibly have an even bigger impact on students.
I am now enrolled in my second graduate program in four years. (More about that in a future post) As I reflect on the past four years in the district office, one statement from a book I recently finished entitled, The Human Side of Change: Reform, Resistance, and the Real-Life Problems of Innovation comes to mind:
"The most dramatic change in moving from a staff position into a [formal] leadership role is the loss of peers" (Evans, 1996, p. 151)While I continue to enjoy quality relationships with teachers in my district, the distance between us has naturally widened. I now have responsibilities beyond classroom walls. Rather than working with twenty-five students at a time on a daily basis, I am charged with helping nearly one hundred adults that I can only gather together several times per year, see, feel, understand, share, and implement a common vision. I don't think I realized how close I became with the other high school math teachers during the three minute hallway conversations in between classes, spontaneous after school meetings and carpooling to the annual state math teachers conference. There were three or four of us in the math department, depending on the year. I thought we worked well together. Looking at the team now, I think they're even tighter as a team! The teacher who replaced me is wise beyond her years as an educator, so I feel really good about leaving a group of educators who have improved since my departure.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoy working with my current administrative team and I couldn't imagine starting my beyond-the-classroom career with a better group. We are fortunate enough to meet together on a nearly weekly basis for several hours. While our roles all include positional authority, three of them are charged with leading buildings, one the entire district and me...well, I wear quite a few hats (mentoring and induction lead, professional learning coordinator, special education director, technology director, Title 1 director, gifted education director, curriculum director, etc.) that often overlap with the rest of the team. While I feel a definite part of the team, I do not have a "hallway discussion" confidant anymore. As Evans (1996) suggested, it has been a dramatic change.
This year, I am interested in connecting even more with district administrators in similar roles. Here are a few action items I plan to pursue during the 2014-15 school year. In no particular order...
- Continue attending the quarterly area curriculum director meetings (Develop existing relationships and strengthen new ones)
- Seek out a leadership role in the area special education director meetings (Deeper learning in this area. Consider finding an informal mentor)
- Spend several hours observing and reflecting with district administrators in a similar role around Iowa. (Establish a more formal learning community, face-to-face or virtual)
- Pursue central office academic literature describing validated practices of central office administrators.