School Leadership

What I Learned as a New Administrator

An administrator reflects with gratitude on being able to see the work teachers and support staff do in a new light.

October 19, 2018
Two teachers talking in a classroom
©iStock/SolStock

The transition from teacher to administrator is a perspective-changing experience on many levels. As someone who recently made this shift within my own building, I’ve learned three meaningful lessons—ones that reinforced foundational beliefs I already held.

The Whole Staff Has a Role in the Success of a School

I taught English for 15 years. As a teacher, I always valued my colleagues and knew that they played an important role, both in the the day-to-day happenings of our school and in fostering a school culture in which students felt valued.

However, transitioning into the role of assistant principal and supervisor of instruction has made me appreciate staff members even more. It has also made me more cognizant of the fact that most teachers don't really know all the things their colleagues do to help the school function and thrive. I’ve been awed by teachers’ dedication, caring nature, and willingness to help others—it’s been both reassuring and inspiring to see these traits in action on a daily basis.

As their supervisor, I see staff members work hard to welcome new colleagues. I see staff members help colleagues who are going through difficult personal life circumstances. I see staff members go above and beyond to make help make our school a better place by providing daily assistance in areas of need. I see staff members take active roles in the lives of students as mentors, coaches, and instructional guides.

A few of the teachers I supervise also took on the role of mentor to me, ensuring that I understood which matters needed to be addressed before they could become serious issues. For an administrator, such details are everything. With the help of these teachers, I was able to head off problems and ultimately had an extremely successful beginning of the school year.

The bottom line is that we all want all of our students to be successful, and teachers do their part—and more—to promote our school’s positive culture.

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Educators Care Tremendously About Their Students

I always believed that my colleagues cared about their students, but that was based more on intuition than observation. I know the idea of teachers caring about students seems obvious—I cared about my own, right?—but in my new role, I’m able to observe this in action in a wide variety of circumstances, as teachers demonstrate compassion, empathy, and steadfast adherence to doing what’s best for their students.

The first time I formally observed a particular teacher, for instance, I was in awe of her ability to be both compassionate and patient with her students in ways that I hadn’t seen from her as her colleague. Her warmth in the classroom made her students feel comfortable and welcomed.

And as I observed more teachers, I saw this same dedication and talent over and over again. The revelation isn’t that I saw one great teacher do what’s best for kids—it’s that I saw all teachers working toward the same goal.

It Takes a Village

As an administrator, I've gotten to know the support staff in my building on a personal level and am able to see how crucial—and too-often unnoticed—their role is. As a teacher, I was only able to see this when it directly affected me. Now, I can see how many people are positively impacted by the work of the the secretarial staff, buildings and grounds staff, paraprofessionals, and security personnel.

Before the school year started, I relied on the help of our buildings and grounds staff, who spent countless hours after school preparing for the school year. When the school year started, my secretary’s experience and expertise was invaluable. Our school’s dedicated paraprofessionals took on responsibilities to ensure that our students were always cared for. Add all of these interactions up, and the impact on our school’s—and my—success was tremendous.

Although their names rarely show up on achievement reports or at awards ceremonies, the dedication of the support staff is what makes teaching and learning possible.

As a teacher, I was inspired by my students and all that they brought into my life. Now I find inspiration in both the students and the staff whom I serve on a daily basis. I chose to share these celebrations because I want others to know how much their colleagues may be doing to serve their students and their schools every single day.

To the administrators and teachers reading this, consider the work that goes into in making a school run well, and take a moment—or many moments—to thank those in your building who serve the students and the school.