Skip Lunch, Feed a Bunch

5 Reasons Mr. Vilson Isn’t Becoming An Administrator … Yet

Jose Vilson Jose 9 Comments

Skip Lunch, Feed a Bunch

Today, as is often the case, I was asked whether I’d be taking AP classes. As the math coach, I’ve always been hesitant to discuss professional ambitions out in the open (because when I do, they get forwarded to people in my school and that becomes a mushroom cloud I have a hard time sitting on). Plus, maintaining a professional demeanor in spite of all is probably any teacher’s (especially a younger teacher’s) greatest weapon.

Today, I’m going to say without a shadow of a doubt that I’m not (absolutely not) becoming an administrator anytime soon. And here are five reasons why:

5) I really appreciate getting out at normal time when I need to.

Being an AP means staying really long hours early and often, even when it’s not necessary. At least if you’re a good one. It means neglecting friends and family in the name of improving your school to the best of your ability. It sometimes means really long commutes and managing far more personalities than you thought. That is, if you’re good. If you’re not that great, then you just hand off your work to the willingest teacher and hope they do all the work for you secretly. And leave with the teachers, too.

4) I like eating lunch on schedule.

Not every teacher gets this opportunity, but for the most part, teachers get the opportunity to have a regulated breather / pee break / face-on-desk time and lunch every day. APs aren’t as fortunate. If they’re good, they’re constantly roaming the halls, working with students, (formally and informally) observing and consulting teachers, and telling parents why their child is doing well … or not. I’ve had a taste of these things on many ends and, as powerful a work this is, it’s just that: work. If you’re good at what you do, lunch often gets lost in the shuffle. Often.

3) Even as math coach, I only have to work with a slice of the teachers in the building, not all.

Yes, I do work with everyone at this point. Yet, my role is more facilitator and liaison than supervisor. I don’t think I want to deal with this “supervisor” title without understanding this math coach stuff because …

2) I’m not done teaching yet.

I still have to prove to myself that I can be a better teacher. I work hard at what I do, but every year, I’ve tried to become a better teacher. Sometimes, it didn’t work, but this year, I’m feeling it. I’m hitting a stride that I like a lot. Even though I only teach one class, that class is the foundation upon which I build my PDs and any other discussions I have with my district. Plus …

1) I’m tired of people asking me.

What is it about schools that send their supposedly promising young men straight off to be administrators? If you have a certain look, then you have to be out of the classroom, even when you’re not ready to do so. I’ve seen a few administrators who, after observing their moves, I think should get back in the classroom for a little longer. Staying in the classroom makes someone a better administrator, and the best principals and APs I know were probably very good teachers (at least adequate).

After all the discussions I’ve had with people like you (and you and you), I simply don’t see myself as a teacher of all teachers. I may be a school building leader, but to be a good administrator, there’s a whole skill set I have yet to learn. How do I discuss (and model) differentiation, formative and summative assessment, classroom management, and mediation? How do I handle those case-by-case situations without having to call every DOE person up? How do I handle each supervisor, network leader, parent association president, union rep,and chancellor who walks through those alarm-triggered steel double doors?

Why do people keep asking me if I’m going to be an administrator? Because that’s where things are going, I guess. Just not yet. I’d like to eat my lunch in silence, please.

Mr. Vilson, who wants to see how this one gets back to the school …

p.s. – My other reasons are actually people I rather not name. There. I said it. (Yes, I’m laughing. No, I’m not kidding.)

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 9

  1. Chris Lehmann

    While I kind of resent NYC Educator’s description of administrators there, the simple answer is this – Do what brings you happiness and allows you do maximize your skills to do the most good.

    I miss teaching and coaching every day, but I also really enjoy the challenges of trying to be a really good administrator.

    The right answer is the the one you make for yourself. Simple.

  2. kat

    Humility x clarity=golden. I think this entry was great (I still read all the time, though I don’t get to comment as frequently). I think you just defined the difference between a job and one’s vocation or simply knowing your calling. It is great when other people think enough of the work you do to encourage you to reach for more, but to know you are exactly where you are supposed to be and you can grow there say’s quite a bit. I don’t want to simplify anyone’s job or vocation, if you will, but I heard a story just yesterday about a man that had quite a bit of potential to do whatever he chose. Instead he contented himself with being a mover because he felt his job was to help people in transition. It is often about a matter of perception. Now if only you could duplicate your work ethic, perceptions and committment to education. We would have schools full of great, dedicated teachers.

  3. Stephen Lazar

    You must be lucky – I have found the first three reasons to be very much part of my teaching/coaching life this year.

    I want to jump off your last point though, why is it that teaching is not enough? Why do so many people, including and especially teachers, ask any good teacher when/if they will become an administrator? I hate teacher bashing as much as the next person, but I feel like the statement “you should be an admin” by teachers reveals a lot of self-loathing for our profession.

  4. Post
    Author
    Jose

    You all gave me comments to think about. Same with my FB comments.

    NYC, I hear you, though I think the best admins don’t even carry pencils because they’re so busy on their feet. Then again, I know ones who have tons of colored pencils.

    Chris, very true. I’d love to get out there into other places and see how they work. Maybe my experience is too limited.

    Kat, thank you for the words of encouragement. So motivating and it makes sense in the grand scheme of things. Ambition can be overrated if you feel you’re already serving your present purpose.

    Stephen, you’re totally right: why do people think being a teacher is a lowly position? I have a few reasons in mind, and none of them good. I just wish we cherished those who time and again do the best job possible, whatever that job is. There is a lot of self-loathing, but in other countries, being called teacher is almost akin to king. Can we move their culture here?

  5. NYC Educator

    I apologize to Chris, and I agree completely with his comment. I should know better than to say such things, as I’ve known very good administrators who were much more than pencil-pushers. I do think teaching is the most important work going on in any school, though–no apology for that.

  6. Pingback: Top 5 Misconceptions About Teacher Leadership / Coaching | The Jose Vilson

  7. Ali Shama

    I came across this post and decided to jump into the fray. After 12 years in the classroom, I came to a conclusion that my ability to innovate would always be hampered by administration. I felt that I was always being held back and limits were placed on my ideas. I found that extremely frustrating. I knew I could do a better job than this one particular principal I was working for at the time and knew that I had to put my money where my mouth was if I really wanted to implement my vision of education. I miss the classroom a great deal, miss the daily classroom interactions with students, and the relationships you build with students in that capacity.

    I am often annoyed by the cliché stereotypes often placed on administrators such as people who wanted out of the classroom, or those who were poor teachers, etc. In my case, that couldn’t be furthest from the truth.

    Ultimately, I knew that if I wanted to do more for more students I had to leave the classroom and become an administrator. What I find more distressing is the “us against them mentality” I encounter. I’ll stop here, because that is entirely different discussion.

    Jose, whether you decide to go in that direction, know that students need to people like us leading schools. Whether you do it from the classroom or any other way, our students need leaders who understand their challenges and have lived them.

    P.S. I often think adult learners are far more challenging than teenagers. I could get kids excited about the work we were going to do – that doesn’t happen nearly as much with adults.

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