October 12, 2018

So you want to be an Admin...what NOT to do

In case you just joined us, this is a multi-part series on becoming a school administrator. You can certainly start here but I would recommend also looking at the 80/20 Rule and the preparation. You never know, you may get some good tips from those.

For this part, let's talk about  what you SHOULD NOT DO when you become an administrator.

Disclaimer...I am not saying I have done all of these things, I am just pretty observant. 

You should NOT...Change things right away
That is unless you were hired to fire a bunch of people. I hope not, that would be a crappy beginning to a career! Most of the time, things will be pretty smooth when you get to where you are going. If not, you still need to hesitate when making major changes. My suggestion...learn your people, learn the school's stories, work on culture and atmosphere. Leave the lunch schedule ALONE!

You should NOT...Be Mean
Why in the world would you do that anyways?? I have seen people get into different positions and feel like they need to immediately exert their authority. This is not necessary...see the first suggestion. Work on the culture and you will never have to be mean.

You should NOT...Gossip
I had a wise principal once tell me "it will feel weird when you walk by the teacher's lounge and know they are talking about you." At any given time, this could very well be true. You are not always going to be their favorite and that is ok. With that being said...do not get involved in ANY of the gossip. It will never work in your favor. Focus on...yeah you guessed, the culture and only spread positive, uplifting vibes.

You should NOT...Show Favorites
This one is hard because there are some who are hard to like. But, it is important to refrain from showing your feelings either way. Now, let me get this straight though. If you have a teacher ROCKIN IT...keep giving them attention, give them resources because everyone else will recognize they are kicking butt. You will get accused of showing favorites but with those superstars, it might be worth it.

You should NOT...Take all of the Glory
Give the Glory, take the blame that is what I always heard. Do not worry, you will get your time to shine. Plus, if your school is doing great or if certain teachers are getting recognized, that is a reflection on YOU! Likewise, if things are crappy it is also going to come back on you.

You should NOT...Be Inflexible
I heard one administrator tell me once "Semper Gumby" simply meaning Always Flexible. You better be flexible because no two days will look alike. And like the great Dr. Petzko always told us..."You are only as good as your Plan B."

You should NOT...Assume YOU have all of the Answers
It does not matter how many years of experience you have or how many degrees you have completed, you WILL NOT have all of the answers. Do not be afraid to pick up the phone, send out an email or even tweet someone. It has been mentioned before, build your professional learning network (PLN) and do not be afraid to use it. It could save the moment, your day or even your career...ASK SOMEONE.

I do not normally focus on the negative side of anything, I am a naturally an optimistic type of guy. But, as a school administrator, some of these things can really get you off to a rough start. Obviously these are not all of them but a great start nonetheless. If these tidbits of advice are too simplicistic and you feel you can navigate this on your own...GO FOR IT! But, word of warning, you better be TOUGH.

I am going to keep this topic rolling for a few more weeks. I have some GREAT guest posts coming...stay tuned for perspectives from a current principal, a long-time director of schools and an aspiring school administrator. It should be fun!!


September 27, 2018

So you want to be an admin...the preparation

People ask me on a regular basis...

"What should I do if I want to be a school administrator?"

I always respond, "other than run...!" Just kidding...well maybe not, I guess there is some truth to that. There is a reason I say that it is because you need to be careful what you wish for. I remember thinking, no schedule, every day is a new day...those are the very things that can wear you down. In all reality, it is probably not what you think. I am definitely not trying to discourage but get ready for a world different than you are used to.

If I have not scared you off, then GOOD. Much like teaching, being an administrator is a calling and it is hard to run from anyways.

So...if you want to start exploring the idea of becoming an administrator, here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Find a mentor
This is HUGE! You need to find someone who is good at what they do, someone you look up to and someone who is willing to be of assistance. I got lucky pretty early and landed a great mentor. And, it is ok to have several too. I did. In fact, connections are important and you should seek the advice of more than one person. In today's world that is super easy, just get on Twitter and see for yourself.

2. Get the appropriate schooling, certification, etc
Self-explanatory...in most states you need the appropriate license or certification to even become an assistant principal. Sometimes that is not the case but ultimately you will need the credentials. For the most part, those credentials will involve some extra time in a university setting and most of the result in a Masters degree or higher. Good news though, there are more and more reputable programs offering these options online. My advice, look around and go for what works for you both academically and the wallet.

3. Build a PLN - include future admins and current admins and even leaders outside of education
Even before you take steps towards becoming an admin, you should be building your Professional Learning Network (PLN). I had great experiences and learned a ton in my graduate programs BUT I also made connections that I still interact with today. Also, since becoming active on Twitter, I have made some great connections outside of my district, my city and even my state. These valuable connections (some of whom I have actually met) can and will play an active role in your career, now and in the future.

4. Get on Twitter
I think I have said this a number of times. In fact, if you know me or have heard me speak, then you know this ALWAYS comes up. Right now, Twitter is the best platform for me in regards to professional development. I have participated in Twitter Chats that last an hour that have been more beneficial than a three day conference. How's that for saving time and money?? Plus, I have built some strong professional and personal relationships on Twitter that have been more valuable than I can even explain in a blog post. If you do not have an account, get one and follow me. If you have an account, get back on it and follow me. Ask questions, lurk, follow people who you find interesting and when you are ready, jump on one of those chats.

5. Start thinking like a teacher and a principal
This one is difficult. One of the bits of advice I give to future admins getting ready to take the license test is..."don't answer the questions like a teacher." That is NOT a knock on teachers but simply an indication that the roles require different perspectives and answers. Have you ever wondered why your principal did something a certain way? When you become one, it will probably make more sense. Your "vision" as a principal is different than that of a teacher. Not that one is better or right, it is simply a different viewpoint. Trust me on this one. Start paying attention to the admins around you and look and how and why they make decisions a certain way. And, if you have a mentor, ask them why they do the things they do...they won't mind.

6. Take on leadership roles, not only to prove yourself but to LEARN
Yes, you may have to work the prom or the yearly beauty pageant but I promise, in the long run you will get something out of it. You learn how to interact with people. You learn how to assign tasks. You also learn how to deal with people who do not agree with you and also may be extremely angry with you. Believe it or not, there is a skill with those situations. Any leadership role is going to be helpful. Be sure to volunteer for a variety of those roles to get a variety of experiences.

7. Let someone know you are interested...preferably someone who might hire you.
My first year as a teacher, I told my Director of Schools, "I want to do what you do." He laughed and said the same thing I said earlier...run while you can. I know he was joking for the most part but I also know that he took it seriously and from that point on, he mentally put me on his list of potential future admins. Several years down the road I got that opportunity and guess who put me there...you guessed it!

If you do not let people know of your intentions, then it is likely that it will be a missed opportunity in the future.

So there you go...seven important tips. There are tons more that will benefit you but those seven can get you a good start. Remember, being an admin is NOT for the faint of heart but if you truly want it, then go for it!


Stay tuned for the next So you want to be an admin...If you missed the last one, click HERE.