Pt. 12 Examples

In the last post, I talked about how good teachers are often made administrators, but argued that the skills of a good teacher do not necessarily translate to good administrator.  In this post, I will provide three specific examples of what I'm talking about.  Examples of people that were taken from one role, placed into another, with devestating effects.

1. The Damn Good Teacher

I had one administrator that told me, verbatim during a post-conference, "I was a damn good teacher."  For the record, I hear that only from this administrator.  Some colleagues disagreed with this person's self-assessment.  

(Tangent: What I should have said was, "You should go back to that, because you suck at this."  I didn't, though, because I was too worried about playing the game and having a bad evaluation.  But then I did have a bad evaluation, from this person, so my worries were all for naught.  Especially, because this person used their own children so much that I quite literarally had to ask, "Could you please stop bringing up your own children".  This was responded to by this, "I consider every one of these students to be my own children".  Ah, no wonder you suck at this.)

This admin perfectly exemplifies the problems of promoting a 'damn good teacher'.   This same person was 'damn good' in middle school, yet 'promoted' to a high school administrator.  In this person's new role, they were in charge of curricular matters over the entire building, including evaluating teaching, though they'd taught nothing but science and had zero experience in this grade.  So when you asked practical advice, there was no answer.  I tested this theory.  I asked, "What would your recommend?" to a specific piece of 'feedback'.   The response: "Talk to the curriculum coach".  Read: I have no idea.  This was not helpful at all.  This person was simply promoted because someone thought this person would be good.  They aren't.  

But the real irony is that this person is currently doing the district a double disservice.  Because by accepting an administrative role, this person removed one "damn good teacher" from the district, while adding another terrible administrator.  

The district is at a net-loss.

2. The Next-in-Line Promotion.

Another example of how this happens, is that a school experiences a sudden change in leadership (like the principal leaves) and they must scramble to find a replacement.  Rather than due dilligence, they go to the 'next in line'.  For example, there was a principal that was hired as a Dean of Students.  This person was personable, and talented at this job.  No one would doubt this.  As a Dean, this person was great, took the job seriously, and had a very positive impact.  So, when the principal took a higher position in the district, this person was 'next-in-line' and promoted the head principal.  The problem was that this person was a terrible principal.  This person had no academic training or teaching experience.  So, while this person was good with people and relationships, when it came to managing teachers and curriculum - most of whom had decades of experience and masters degrees, this person was immediately recognized as a failure.  This person had zero teaching training, or content training, yet was thrown into creating and evaluating all of it.  This person needed help editing evaluations, and didn't know any of the terms that go with academic language.  So, while this person was a very good fit for a dean, the 'promotion' hurt everyone involved.  

The problem compounds, though, because with the general nature of people, once we get promoted, we almost never say we deserve a demotion.  

3.  They Know More Than Anyone Else

Another sad example of how this happens is akin to the big fish in a small pond.  This usually happens when a place is looking for stability or a new direction, so goes for a short term - rather than a long term - solution.  One example is a building was doing some experimental education.  An interesting program.  One person had more knowledge and training than the rest of the staff, so was considered the expert on a particular type of teaching.  Due to this 'expertise', this person was placed as the principal of the entire program.  The short term solution may have worked.  But this person was then awarded the long term position.  But this was awarded not based upon qualifications or experience, but rather because this person knew more than their peers.  The problem was that when the program expanded, there were several people that knew more than the Big Fish.  Consequently, the long-term suffered due to the short-term.  No good.