Saturday, September 14, 2013

We Can't All Be the Principal!

I attended a Panamanian reunion a few years ago, and my Aunt Katherine introduced me to some of her friends. She introduced me as her niece, the principal. I laughed and told her that I was not a principal. She said, "Oh, an assistant principal." No, not that either. "Well, you will be one some day." I told her that I wouldn't because I enjoyed being a classroom teacher. I don't think she believed me.:)

I had a first year teachwe tell me that her husband said he doesn't see her being a "classroom teacher" for 30+ years. It wasn't what she said, it was the disdain with which she said "classroom teacher,"

I enjoy being a classroom teacher. I enjoy being with the students, as exhausting as that may be. I love the interaction with my students, the planning, the engagement, I would miss it if I left the classroom. When I entered the profession, this was what other teachers loved as well. Unfortunately, too many people are entering our profession with their sights set on what the future holds outside the classroom, and not what's in the classroom, our kids. 

I don't know how many times I have heard teachers, just entering the profession, letting everyone know how soon they will leave the classroom. I knew a teacher who had a 5 year plan.  I had a TFA'er tell me that she was going to be a lawyer. As we speak, she is in law school, after spending 2 years "teaching."Too many times the classroom is regarded as a stepping stone to being an administrator or to another career.

I don't have a problem with people becoming administrators, resource teachers, etc... We need those people just as much as we need teachers in the classroom. But I question what happened to experience being a good thing? What happened to learning the ropes, becoming good in one thing before moving on to the next? What happened to spending the first year focused on teaching instead of how many committees you can join so you meet the "right" people?

I don't want a principal who has taught for only 3 years. I want an administrator who actually knows what it feels like to be in the classroom. I wouldn't want  my child taught by someone whose sole ambition is to be "anything but a teacher in the classroom", in X number of years.

A friend of mine recounted the story of a running into a woman who was currently working at her former school. She told the woman she had also been a teacher at the school. The woman haughtily replied, "I am not a teacher, I am the vice principal." Well... excuuuuusssse me! When one profession is thought to be "better", no wonder getting out of the classroom is a goal.

I think I would be a pretty good administrator if all I had to do was deal with the kids. But I know it is so much more than that. I know it is a difficult job that has demands from the students, parents, staff, administrators, I became exhausted just thinking about it. I think people crave the title and the salary, and don't realize the work they have to put in.

There's nothing wrong with looking beyond the classroom. But if you're stepping on the heads of our children in order to see the road ahead, there's definitely something wrong with that. And as wonderful as the title sounds, we can't all be the principal.

photo credit: cliff1066™ via photopin cc


  1. So very true!! I still remember one of the questions asked during my initial interview 8 years ago: "Where do you see yourself ten years from now?" I thought that was odd. I see myself teaching. Of course, the big bad boys of DOE are making that harder and harder each year, but I would like to have time to teach, and not have to do other stuff. Seems a lot of folks get frustrated because they can't do "other stuff", because they "have to" teach...

    1. Yeah, you would think they would want you to still be teaching. It's as if staying in the classroom is a bad thing.

  2. I absolutely agree that I want a principal with more than 3 years experience in the classroom. My elementary principal taught 3 years in a really small town at the high school level and he has no idea what it really takes to be an elementary teacher. I think that it should be a requirement to have been an elementary classroom teacher to be an elementary principal. It is a whole different world between managing a high school classroom compared to an elementary classroom.

    I also agree about those that join committee after committee. I have no interest what-so-ever in being on committees. Anything that takes my energy away from teaching is not something I want to do. I have been asked to be on school improvement committee and go to different trainings over the years and I always decline because I don't like missing school and being out of the classroom. My principal looks at this as a negative. I told him that my #1 job is to be in the classroom every day that I can so that my students have uninterrupted learning. To me, that is a good thing. I see different teachers missing a lot of days of school for different trainings, etc...and I don't think that is good for the class. No matter how good a substitute teacher is, it pretty much is a wasted day of learning when the regular teacher is gone. (in my opinion)

    1. High school and elementary are two different worlds! :)
      I don't mind being on a committee, as long as it's productive. Too often, they are just something that was forced on the staff and they serve no purpose. Any training that provides me with something that I can take and use in my classroom is great to me too. Unfortunately those trainings are few and far between.

  3. Yes- I thought so too. Everyone one wants to be a principal.. its all about status and money.