As I finish the first couple of weeks of my first administrative job (assistant principal for our summer high school), it is very clear that there is a distinct difference between being an administrator and a leader. A principal needs to be both, but it can be easy to favor the former over the latter.
The first week has gone extremely well. Our program is for remediation and acceleration so there is a nice mix of students, and we have great teachers and support staff. Summer school is a well-oiled machine that needs light tendering to keep it on course, rather than drastic steering to make it go in a different direction.
Administrative duties come up constantly. Be it dealing with student scheduling issues, a parent with a concern, a student who has chosen to do something inappropriate, a teacher with a home emergency, or a required fire drill, the stream of tasks never seems to end. An administrator has to be able to handle these activities in stride as they are the primary things that interfere with the learning environment in the classroom.
Leadership duties are there constantly, but not necessarily in sight. Deciding how to act on scheduling issues, parent concerns, student actions, etc. is driven by leadership beliefs and can have long term consequences. It may be easier to resolve an issue one way, but may be detrimental to the bigger picture. Beyond daily actions, the need for program leadership – how the school serves the needs of the population – can be missed if one only focuses on the day-to-day.
What are some of the key program questions for our summer program?
- What is different in summer school for remediation students that might help them succeed?
- What is the learning environment like for the students? Is it challenging and engaging?
- What courses are being offered for acceleration? Is there a need to alter these?
- What courses are being offered for remediation? Is there a need to alter these?
These are some of the questions that need to be considered on a regular basis, as answers to these will have an impact on the answers to all the daily questions.
It would be very easy to get caught up in only dealing with the day-to-day tasks. Handling them takes excellent skills, but being content taking care of those items can divert attention away from the more important bigger picture. We have a great setup in our school, but program (leadership) questions and daily (administrative) questions are equally important to ensuring the continual growth and integrity of the school.