Hi! Mary here. Erin mentioned the other day that we don't have anything on our blog that references my move to administration. So...now we do! (That's kinda how the CRL work. She tells me what to do and I drop everything and slave away until it meets her approval.) (Just kidding.) Enjoy!
I used to hate lunch duty.
When I was teaching, I would have one 20 minute lunch duty every six school days, and I detested it. Lunch duty is loud, smelly, uncomfortable, and loud. Once, I made a deal with a colleague; he covered one of my lunch duties in exchange for me grading 25 of his 8th grade Social Studies essays. (Only 25? A bargain.)
Now I serve three lunch duties a day. Three 20 minute lunch periods coupled with transition time means I currently spend an hour and a half of every day surrounded by noise, cafeteria smells, the heat of 180 bodies packed into an enclosed space, and noise. What’s more, in comparison to some of the other things I deal with in the course of a day, lunch duty is a breeze. I actually look forward to it.
And that, in a nutshell, is how I describe the transition from teacher to administrator.
After thirteen years in a middle school ELA classroom, I became an administrator in January of 2016. I took the job with all kinds of wide eyed enthusiasm about the impact I’d be able to have. As a teacher, I said in my interview, I could only reach 80-100 kids each year. As an administrator, I’d have access to almost 500! Think of how I could shape them, mold them, positively influence them to become the change makers the world needs so desperately. I would use my role to connect with students in new and meaningful ways, leading them in literacy initiatives and community service endeavors and mentoring them into compassionate contributors to the local and global community.
You know what I do as an administrator? I go to lunch duty three times a day. I try to fit in classroom visits as often as I can, but it’s not nearly often enough. I call angry parents. I talk to
angry teachers. I organize MCAS. And I investigate incidents. A lot.
I’ve said many times, and I’m sure people have assumed I was joking, (I’m not) that instead of curriculum design and budgeting, my graduate classes should have taught me how to conduct an investigation. And I don’t mean an educational law class, I mean literally HOW to interrogate someone. What to say, the appropriate tone of voice, what to ask, what to repeat, what to write down, who to question, when to call parents, when to call Central Office, when to call the police. Watching reruns of Law and Order may be more educational for prospective administrators than pretty much anything I took whilst pursuing my license.
In an ideal world, administrators truly could shape the lives of every student in their building. In an ideal world, there are no bullying investigations, no complains about the parking lot, no special schedules to be created, no data management systems to navigate. The administrative job of my interviewing dreams did not include learning how to save security camera footage or repeating truly vile language to appalled parents. In an ideal world, kids are nice to each other, each child comes from a supportive and capable household, there is peace and harmony in the world, and we all live happily ever after.
Before I go too far down the path of negativity (too late?) there are parts of my administrative job that I very much enjoy. For example, our evaluation process of observation and conversation, reviewing evidence towards standards and providing feedback, is awesome. I love visiting classrooms and seeing lessons. It's such a treat to get out of the four walls of one classroom and into cool places like Science and Math and Spanish and Art. If not for administration, I'd have zero idea what, let alone appreciation and admiration for, what goes on in a STEM classroom. I love seeing where subjects connect and support each other. In team meetings teachers would always talk about how some kids shine in other areas. As an administrator, now I get to *see* it. As an administrator, I get to see everything and talk to teachers about it and provide feedback that I hope will help them evolve as a practitioner. I love it. Evaluating and helping teachers improve their practice is almost like teaching.
|Interacting with kids|
via bulletin board.
Ah, there’s the rub. I think the hardest part about moving from a classroom to an office is that I desperately miss teaching. I miss feeling excited about kids and content and projects. I miss getting them to laugh and watching them grow and improve. I miss planning lessons in my brain every timeI hear a cool song. I miss reveling the language of a good poem. I miss Shakespeare and Frost and Angelou. I miss Scout and Jem, Liesel and Rudy. I miss seeing kids get wrapped up in the beauty of a literary moment. I miss crying with them when a good book ends. I even miss being huddled on the floor in the corner of a classroom, quietly reassuring kids that they’re going to be okay and that I’ll do anything to keep them safe. I never thought I’d miss that, but I do. I miss teaching and everything that goes with it.
So I teach when I can. When students are suspended, they spend the day in my office where I willingly teach everything from 6th grade Math to 8th grade Spanish. When I have to provide feedback and redirection in the cafeteria, I sit next to children and I teach. When a student is in danger of failing and all other efforts have fallen flat, I take them into my office and I teach. I’ve embraced the discipline process as a platform for education. I’ve developed lesson plans for bullying, hate symbols, racial language, and vaping. I teach in the one-on-one conversations I have with students when conducting an investigation. I teach when students come to report a problem or
As a literary leader, Erin thinks my new position has brought benefits. She calls me CRL 2.0. And I suppose I have been able to provide a new perspective and understanding of logistics and impact when we’re planning whole school events. Sure, I’ve installed a new “Principal’s Bookshelf” in the lobby, and I was able to get new copies of The Giver ordered pretty darn quickly for our 7th graders, and I guess I’ll have to content myself with that for now.
To answer those people who ask, “do you like it?” I say the jury is still out. I’m a stronger, more resilient version of myself now than I was two years ago. That’s good, right?
To answer the those people who ask, “should I get my admin license?” I have to ask...how do you feel about lunch duty?