How to Take a Good Teacher and Turn Them into a Bad Administrator

In the world of education, there isn't a way to go 'up', unless you go the route of administration.  When you begin your teaching career, you're placed on a salary schedule, given a set of classes, and then you begin your career.  You do this for 30-some years, and then retire.  Good teachers communicate their information better than bad teachers.  They may get more leadership roles in schools, may have better schedules and classrooms, and may therefore enjoy their job more, but there isn't really a way to go 'up' in this role.  Even if you're great and the person next to you sucks, you get the same raise every year.  

So what happens, quite often, is that a teacher wants to make more money, wants a 'promotion', and goes the route of administration - the only significant pay raise.  (Ex. In Grand Rapids, admin make, on average, $20K more than teachers; In Chicago, it was about $40K).  Even when it stems from a good place "I want to make this place better!" this logic is flawed.  The things that make a teacher good, and the things that make an administrator good are very different things.  

But, few people with power realize this, and a lot of districts take good teachers and 'promote' them to administrators.  The logic is like this: since this person was good as a teacher, they'll be good as an administrator.  They know the schools, relate well to kids, and can control a room: obviously this will be good.  This logic is just as flawed as the assumption that a good athlete would make a good coach.  

The skills needed for both jobs are entirely different.  Good teachers are knowledgeable about a subject, able to communicate that subject, and can relate the content of that subject to a wide range of people.  Good teachers are compassionate, forgiving, helpful, and take specific instances into consideration on a frequent basis.  A good teacher is adaptable, flexible, and creative.  In every decision a teacher makes, they're weighing the good of the class v the good of the student.  You may adapt one assignment for a particular class, change a book for a certain group, or allow one student much extra time on a task.  This is because your job is to teach every student and how a teacher does this must change.  Sometimes, this might mean passing someone that should have failed.  Sometimes that means allowing one more retake, or not writing someone up and instead allowing them to ask forgiveness (ex. 'teachable moments').  In an English class, this may mean not failing a student for plagiarism, because their mistake was close enough to an accident that you can use that same mistake to help many other students not plagarize.  It might mean dropping the lowest test score of a student so that their average is an 80% rather than a 79% at the end of a semester.  Or, it might mean offering 'extra credit' for learning opportunities to help a student pass your class.

And these all may be great things, but that's up to a teacher.  The problem is that these same positive attributes of compassion and flexibility actually hurt an administrator.  Often, when these good teachers get promoted, they use these skills on the school as a whole.  It's very common to hear an administrator say, "In my class I used to..." and this is a major problem.  Already, they're showing the lens that they look at students through.  I've heard more than one administrator say, "These are all my kids" or "I view every kid in this school like my own child". 

This is problematic for a few reasons, but one is: what if you're a bad parent?  

Being a parent and in charge of the good of the whole are completely different things.  

Administrators have the job and responsibility of educating the collective whole.  And this must have firm rules.  If the rules say "Anyone found with a cellphone in class will have this cellphone confiscated until a parent or guardian collects it at the school office" you better make damn sure to follow this.  The second that you allow one student to use that phone, while confiscating the other, you just showed an entire building that rules are subject to the breaker of the rule.  (This is also an example of when a good teacher may show forgiveness: ex. a student has never used a phone in class, and it rings loudly during a quiz.  They simply forgot to silence the phone.  Maybe you allow them to quickly perform that task and put it away without consequence.)

Too often, what happens is that the good teacher was promoted to administration.  Then they work in this role for a while, but are never good at it.  They use their teacher skills to look at everything, putting in place rules and policy that have no good for the collective whole.  They cut deals in almost every situation, and the overall structure of a place goes down.  Without even trying, I can think of seven such teachers that have been placed in these roles.  I've seen their schools and approach, and they hurt the school overall.

When this happens, when you take a good teacher and place them in the role of administration, you're setting them up for failure.  But, the other thing you're doing is removing a good teacher from a classroom.  So, in turn, you're actually hurting the district that you claimed you were there to help.  

So, simply promoting someone into the position of power, because they were good at one job, is how you take a good teacher, and turn them into a bad administrator.  (For this one, the examples will definitely help).