If we are going to transform the roles of teachers in schools, then the roles of school leaders must change too. Though I often think the job of the teacher borders on impossible, the job of principal is even more so. Do we want many of the same things?
I recently had the opportunity to talk, along with teacher leader, Jose Vilson, with a group of educators who train principals through NYC’s Aspiring Principals Program. They had been reading Teaching 2030, a book I helped to write with 12 other teachers from around the country, and we had an interesting and affirming discussion of the ideas in the book. The idea I walked away with was that principals could really be our allies in the quest to transform our public schools and create a more teacher and student driven education system. It seemed the educators there were energized by our ideas and were really looking for how to make them workable in the current contexts in which principals must operate.
What if those contexts, too, need to change? Well, certainly teacher leadership can help bring that about. I also thought of this conversation, because today, the USED announced a new Principal Ambassador Fellowship! The program is modelled after the Teacher Ambassador Fellowship, which has been around for some years now. One reason I’m happy to see this is that I believe principals are even more isolated in their jobs than teachers are. We talk about teachers in egg cratee classrooms, closing the door and teaching in isolation. This is hardly my reality anymore. I co-teach every day and have opportunities to meet and work with other teachers daily too. How many principals have the chance to meet with other principals, or see what’s going on in schools outside their own? This is so rare. I’m glad USED will be bringing principals–who, like teachers, work on the ground level of our education system–into their thinking on education reform.
Shaking up the role of the principal must be a part of the transformation of our schools. Many teacher leaders don’t want to become principals, despite the pressure many of us experience to move in the direction of administration. If we don’t want to become principals, but we want to lead, then we need to need to be more thoughtful about the ways we bring principals into our vision of a transformed teaching profession and transformed learning environments for students.
[image credit: rlyoung.blogspot.com]