Administrators as Lead Learners

by mrsapia


I’ve been teaching for eleven years, but involved in education for the last fourteen including substitute experience, interning, and student teaching.  I have encountered many administrators along the way.  For the spirit of honesty, most of them have been supportive, open to new ideas, good listeners, and understanding.  However, there have been some that are quite the opposite of the above adjectives.

Over the past few years my administrators have been some of the best.  I recently moved from a fourth grade position to a fifth grade position in our local middle school due to overcrowding in some district elementary schools.   I took this leap of faith for many reasons.  I was looking for a new challenge and to grow as an educator.  My colleague and I had a very unique opportunity to design our own curriculum and bring our creative energy into our daily lessons. Sure, we have a district pacing guide, but it’s just that, a guide.  Having a knowledge of the standards we are required to teach can be overwhelming, but when you have administrators who TRUST your instructional decisions creates an ecosystem where we can thrive and inspire.  They consistently push us to engage students in new ways, utilizing purposeful technology integration as a tool.

I have a learner first mentality that I try to carry with me daily.  Part of the allure of this new position was that I was going to work WITH, yes WITH, an administration team that is highly respected in my district. There is no us against them mentality that I’ve seen in the past.  Each one brings a really great energy to the building. And no, this is not a post about brown nosing.  I believe praise should be given to all when a job well done is accomplished.  This got me thinking.

When you work with a team of administrators who respect and trust your decisions, it makes you want to rise to the occasion even more and become an even better educator, right?  It’s a great feeling when an administrator pops into your classroom unannounced and stays to watch kids collaborating, creating, problem solving, and engaging in learning.  Is this common practice in schools? If not, it should be.  Administrators are lead learners.  Administrators should have a present face in their teacher’s classroom to push them, challenge them, acknowledge their hard work, provide constructive feedback, and work and interact with kids. Isn’t that why we do what we do?  I know the amount of bureaucracy and emails can become overwhelming, but students needs to see their presence.  We all should be continual learners on this educational journey.

I’m all for constructive feedback.  How could you not be if it will improve your practice? What I am against, vehemently, are administrators who constantly question instructional decision and are quick to criticize without offering up feedback or an alternative plan.  This is not acceptable. This same statement goes for teachers as well. That type of culture in a building will have an adverse effect on teacher growth and has no place in a building.  Does everyone have bad days? Of course.  Have we all said something we regret? Obviously.  But when nothing constructive is said, that takes a mental toll and does nothing but take the sails out of teacher’s excitement.

We are teaching in a very transparent age of education.  Teachers are harnessing the power of social media and engaging students and parents in ways that were never possible before.  As someone who may travel down that path because I am a certified administrator, I plan to lead by example.

I plan to celebrate teachers who are taking chances in the classroom.  I plan to acknowledge teachers who are thinking outside the box. I plan to come into classrooms and make myself visible and not just a voice over the loudspeaker.  I plan to bring my love of literacy and read to students and recommend books.  I plan to challenge my staff to be creative and to take risks. I plan to celebrate students’ and teachers’ work through social media.  I plan to be a lead learner and model ways to engage students and staff at staff meetings by using tech they can utilize in your class tomorrow! I plan to instill a growth mindset in my staff by always encouraging them to challenge the status quo.  I plan to laugh, a lot.  I plan to have fun by having staff participate in great team building and culture activities.  I plan to show staff that I am human, make mistakes, and admit when I am wrong.  I plan to be transparent. I plan to challenge my staff to reach their fullest potential, while providing constructive feedback to make them stronger in the name of student achievement. Are they lofty goals? Sure.  It’s the small steps that can be taken that can go a long way to establishing a positive culture in a building.  Ignite a passion in your staff that models what collaborative learning can look like.  Lead.  By.  Example.

For great examples educators using social media to celebrate staff and student work, I highly recommend following Tony Sinasis, Frank Rodriguez, Jason Martin, Mike Rinaldi, Eric Sheninger, and Todd Nesloney.  In what ways are you a lead learner?

I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT.  I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies.  I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community.  I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching.  I am a certified administrator.  I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement.  I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday.  I am a husband and father.  Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach