Why Is the Only Way Up to Go Out?

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I tweeted this message out the other night and the response was tremendous.  I began teaching in 2005 and many of my friends have already left the classroom.  Almost all of them are still in education, but they are no longer teachers.  My friends are principals, vice-principals, supervisors, coaches, curriculum coordinators, professional development coordinators, and every other title in the education world.  Many of them were phenomenal teachers and it saddens me to know that they are no longer bringing that enthusiasm and expertise to students.  That’s part of the reason I have no interest in that world.  It’s not that I don’t want to take on a leadership position…..I would love that!  But there are few options for teachers who want to remain in the classroom.

It made me feel better to learn that I am not the only teacher who does not plan to enter administration in the near future (or ever, at this point). During the conversation on Twitter it became clear that talented teachers  crave leadership positions.  So then why is it that the only way to move into a leadership position in education is to move out of the classroom? The Atlantic took on this issue a few days ago in “Great Teachers Don’t Always Want to Become Principals“.

I think that part of the reason teachers are not given the same respect as other careers is because many members of the general public view it as a stop-gap.  There are two choices, in their eyes: if you are a great teacher then you teach for a few years (ideally under 10 years) and move into administration, or if you are a bad teacher you stay in the classroom.  I can’t tell you how often I am asked when I plan to get an administrative position and when I respond with “never”, people just stare at me. “But you are a good teacher!” they often say.  That means I shouldn’t stay in the classroom?

And I’m not knocking those who do move into administration!  All of my friends are fantastic at their new jobs, too.  I just hate that the only way to take on a leadership role is through that type of position, the one that removes you from the classroom.

I’ve already completed by National Board Certification but most districts don’t even treat that as equivalent to a masters degree, so there aren’t a lot of leadership opportunities available.  There are some national opportunities, but most of them involve leaving the classroom for a sabbatical at the least and forever in some cases.  That’s not what I am interested in.  I want to stay in the classroom and continue working with kids!

How can we allow teachers to take on leadership roles (not necessarily entirely new positions) and still keep good teachers in the classroom?  I know of some districts that create hybrid positions and I think that’s a great idea.  Teachers spend part of their day in the classroom, teaching their students, and the other part of the day running professional development and mentoring other teachers.  To me, that seems perfect.  It allows new teachers to learn from master teachers while also keeping those teachers in the classroom part-time.  Lots of districts have professional development coordinators who are solely administrators but I’d love to see those become hybrid positions.  Spend the morning teaching (the same type of classes you would normally teach, with consistent kids) and the afternoon planning PD, running PD sessions, and working with other teachers.

I know if that was an option I’d gladly take it at some point.  But I can’t see myself leaving the classroom completely, because teaching is my passion.  What about you?  What type of leadership position do you think should exist for teachers who want to stay in the classroom?

5 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Lost in The World Map.

  2. I 100% agree with your post, Sarah! I have absolutely no desire to go into admin. My Masters is in Reading and Language Arts, but once I found out that most opportunities as a Reading Specialist involve leaving the classroom I was incredibly disappointed. I’m happy I have that degree and it has already served me well (in my classroom), but it’s still disheartening. I love being in my classroom with my students every day. Eventually I want to teach at the university level and work with preservice teachers; I see that as “moving up” but not the way others in the profession might. I love the idea of a hybrid position. My new principal mentioned something like that to me when I was interviewing and mentioned my goal to work in a university. If I can create a hybrid position with him, I’d be thrilled.

  3. This is so great. I never, ever want to leave the classroom, and I’m often given a “wait until you’re older” face when I express those feelings. And this! “if you are a great teacher then you teach for a few years (ideally under 10 years) and move into administration, or if you are a bad teacher you stay in the classroom.” Exactly! What is this? Why is this??

    I like the idea of hybrid positions, but unfortunately most of the examples I’ve seen in action have been messy. I want to see where and how hybrid positions work well, because I think they’d open great opportunities.

    Thanks for this post!

  4. Sarah,
    I, for one, have much respect for educators who stay in the classroom. I worked as a literacy coach and Reading Recovery teacher for several years. Both situations allowed me to stay in the classroom part time which I thought was essential. It is easy to lose touch with the realities of teaching young children once we have stepped away. I actually went back to the classroom full time because it is what I love most. I also felt it was necessary for remaining relevant in the work I do each day.

    You ask a great question. Why does one have to step away to move up? I think hybrid positions are an interesting way to have the best of both worlds. I also think positions that allow us to work outside for a bit and then return are another possibility. I think it is as important that those who leave the classroom stay grounded in good practice and close to the classroom.

    I think there are ways to lead and still stay in the classroom. For example, I know you are a leader on Twitter and many follow your blog. In our district we try to plan book talks, collaborative learning sessions, and support other teachers. Presenting (or leading) sessions at conferences is another way to find leadership opportunities while staying in the classrooms.

    Thanks for sharing your thinking. You ask an important question.

  5. Many times teachers leave the classroom for an admin position because most times that is the only time to get a significant increase in pay. Administrators contracts are usually negotiated differently than teachers and because there are fewer administrators, a larger pot of money is available to split up fewer ways.

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