Bridging the Teacher/Admin Divide

Bronx Classroom Tales


Too often, teachers think of administration as the “dark side,” but those same skills that make for a good teacher should translate into supportive, encouraging educational leaders.

The question is: where does the divide between teachers and administrators begin? And more importantly, how can we fix it?

More than 58% of principals have at least 10 years of experience teaching before taking their place at the school’s helm. About 32% had 4-9 years and only 10% had less than three years in the classroom, according to the National Center for Education Statistics 2010 report for the 07/08 school year.

By the numbers, an overwhelming majority of principals are former veteran teachers. They’ve been in teachers’ shoes and know the challenges of the profession. With that shared history, the gulf between teachers and administrators shouldn’t be too wide to bridge.

The work of an administrator is inherently different in that they don’t have a set schedule of where they need to be and with whom, they get their own office and they’re paid more. However, having taken on some administrative duties over the years, I see more similarities than differences when it comes to instructional administrators. 

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1. Administrators are responsible for instructing a diverse group of learners on how to improve their skills. Who knows how to do this better than a teacher?

2. Administrators have to evaluate those learners and they have to be able to prove that those learners are making progress. Teachers are masters of assessment and intervention strategies.

3. Administrators have to balance administrative tasks against the day-to-day interactions with students and staff members… and a million other things. Teachers can certainly understand the pressure and stress that comes with juggling too many responsibilities.

Bridging the Teacher/Admin Divide

Unfortunately, hostility breeds for administrators because many don’t do these things in the same manner in which they are telling teachers to do them for their students.

Too often, teachers feel more threatened than supported, expected to perform certain tasks without being instructed on how to do so, analogous to a pop quiz on random topics a teacher hasn’t taught yet.

It’s time to remind principals and administrators of their instructional roots. Ask for more guidance, clearly defined objectives and rubrics for observations, a differentiated approach to mentoring staff and more teacher-favorite strategies. As educators, they’ll have to see the common sense behind your request.

If not, it’s time to bring some light to the “dark side” and show them how to lead like a teacher!