A Word on Administration

For many years as a union representative I worked to expand the ranks of school administrators to include women. Since they were drawn from a teaching corp that was at least on the elementary school level mostly women, it was odd that almost no administrators were. Looking back it made an awkward kind of sense. Don’t you want a strong man to be in charge?

Administrators worked at rather difficult tasks. They were asked to create a budget that took into account annual changes in monies available. Or to create a schedule for all classes at a time when computer programmers were still figuring out how to do that. They held the keys to the castle and with it the responsibility to determine who should be allowed in — when and where. They hired and fired. They also handled problems like students roaming the halls or regularly late to class, or as an intermediary for parental complaints. And once a year they made speeches to teachers at a time when faculty were mostly concentrating on prepping their rooms or their lesson plans for student arrival the following day.

Thereafter they retreated to their offices with secretaries who functioned as sentries limiting those with permission to enter and facilitating messages which were to be sent out. This retreat drew a line between them and the faculty.

Many had been effective educators in their earlier days. In a sense that was why they were promoted. They got paid considerably more by the way. But the longer they served, the less they remembered. Or to put it differently, they still knew how to lecture, but they lost the teaching process in their distancing.

I have long believed all administrators should teach at least one class each term to keep in touch, like Department Heads often do, an ordinary class not honors or senior seminars. But the ongoing isolation took its toll. They could no longer be educational leaders.

At the alternative school we, the faculty, collectively took responsibility for educational theory and practice. We created the opening document; we determined how it should be implemented. And while we invited all to participate with us in ongoing discussions, revisions, dealing with unexpected consequences and problems which came up, we sought an administrator who accepted this group decision-making as a precondition. There was to be no hierarchy. Oh we invited him to join our circle many times, but he always refused, perhaps through force of habit. I don’t really know. And he was mocked by his peers for not taking control. I felt bad about that.

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