Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Question of the Day: Term Limits

Today's question is pretty straightforward: Should school administrators serve term limits and return to classroom teaching once their term is up?

Thanks to @dpeter, @AndrewBWatt, @tmsaue1, and @daveandcori for inspiring this conversation on Twitter this morning. 


  1. I think it's a great idea. Too many administrators spent a very short amount of time in the classroom and forget what it's like. They become lifetime administrators and forget about being educators.

    Plus, it would allow other teachers a chance to be an administrator and give them a chance to use their ideas, creativity, and enthusiasm to help fix and improve things.

  2. I think so, but I also think they should be able to go back into administration after a few years back in the classroom (and continue the cycle).

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  4. Addendum:

    Obviously, this means the "building" will need a vision that all are working toward so we don't get the pendulum swinging all over the place when new administrators come in. I see it as a everyone getting a chance to take on that formal leadership role, not necessarily to take their radical agendas to the top and make big top-down changes every few years.

  5. No. IMHO a good teacher doesn't necessarily make a good administrator. It's essential that they have a teaching or at least educational background so that they can understand the needs of teachers and teaching's peculiarities.

    Also, if we were to change at the end of every term I think we'd end up with a rolling stock of poorly-trained administrators who'd lack the authority to implement changes or decisions.

    Just my 2c worth.


  6. Why pick on just administrators? Lets put ed profs in the same cycle. Yes, I think this is a great idea, I like Russ' modification also.

  7. Check out my grad schools model for academic deans. I like the model. It seems to work well.

    I want my admins to have the skill sets of an artistic entrepreneur, non-profit director, and monk. I wonder if rotating will help achieve my ideal:)

  8. I initially thought it would be a great idea to have the administrators return to the classroom after a few years, but am now leaning more towards Seth's line of thinking. Not everyone who is a great teacher is a great administrator, and not every great administrator is a great teacher. I have seen this not only in the education world, but also in the business world. Some people are better administrators and that's all there is to it. It's not a bad thing, it's just the way it is.

    Maybe if, like Russ suggested, they are able to cycle through from teacher to administrator and back, it may be okay. My only concern is with the pay scale and that administrators always, at least from what I have seen, make more than teachers. Will school districts make you change from one pay scale to the next and back every time you change positions? How will that work for retirement and years teaching?

    Thanks for always having interesting things to follow and learn from!

  9. i like the idea of term limits! but maybe give the option of what to rotate into next: classroom, professional development/further schooling, etc.

  10. I think anyone in education, in a position of authority or responsibility, who is not in the classroom should have to return for a semester/course, etc to ensure that they are on board with current practice and thinking. Grad school profs in education? Some haven't been near the classroom in decades, and are unfamiliar with today's student. For example, how can someone have to take a 'tech' course at teacher's college in order to teach? Shouldn't 'tech' be a part of what is happening in most classrooms? Perhaps more districts could start having admin teach a course or two each year. This might keep them fresh and relevant.

  11. I think this is a great idea. So many administrators leave the classroom for the principal's office, and even worse, central office. They lose touch with the classroom aside from an occasional walk-through in the classroom. So many are on the fast track to administration. I agree with with Craig said. Have an administrator teach a course they once taught or something in their field.

  12. I know of a few school districts in which the admin at the top "take on a class to stay in touch" with what the classroom environment of their students is like. Obviously, there are multiple problems with this: 1) teaching one class is different than teaching five; 2) teaching one subject is different than prepping for two plus; 3) my teaching day does not end after one period - it begins well before and ends long after the last bell rings; 4) teaching elem is not the same as teaching secondary.

    The idea is noble - but gives administrators a false sense of reality. Having them take a "sabatical into the classroom" once every four years or so might give them a better sense of where to cut and where to spend the precious dollars we have when they return to the mountain top. :)

  13. I definitely think education professors (along with building administrators) shouldn't be more than a few years out of the classroom at any point, however they want to do that. Good idea, Carl.

    Here's a possibl(y terrible) analogy: In one of my fantasy baseball leagues, we have a live draft. All 12 guys get together in somebody's basement, we have a draft board where you write your pick's name when you draft, it takes 10 hours, etc. Multiple guys drive from 8+ hours away for this, and there is a waiting list 10+ guys long to get into the league. The only rule for staying in the league is that you can't miss more than half the drafts (since you've been in the league.) So, this is my third year in the league, but I had to miss this year because my car broke down. I now cannot miss next year or I'm out of the league.

    Why have this rule? If we let ourselves get too far away from what we love about fantasy baseball -- the camaraderie, the smack talk, the cheese curds and little smokies -- we'll lose sight of what really matters.

  14. No. The bulk of the problem with education is that we have very poor leadership. When we do get it, it isn't there very long, as it is. Was anyone the best teacher he or she could be the first few years? Or do people usually grow? If you do get a good administrator, why should you have to lose him or her because of term limits? Of course, some people are not going to be good administrators, period, but I'm not sure that means they'll be good teachers either. The real problem is that they just don't get to the classroom enough; that is a function of what's valued by the administrator or the District. Sometimes a District will pull them out for constant meetings at the D.O.

  15. I don't think it should be a mandate. As it is many districts have "career redirection" available for administrators that want to return to the classroom. The key is the "desire" and where this desire puts someone. Forcing an admin to teach when their heart isn't into it is foolish. What I would offer is a suggestion to have an admin just for budgeting and reports and another one for personnel issues. I find that many admins are detached from their staff simply because they are drowning in paperwork. In the end low staff morale impacts negatively on staff and student outcome. We should focus more on positive leadership skills.

  16. Wow, I think its a great idea. I think its a great idea for all the same reasons the people who commented before me probably already shared.

  17. @Dave

    I do like that to-and-fro of admin to teacher and vice-versa. Might help break up a lot of the gridlock based on preconceived notions about each situation.


    I think cycling back and forth (for all involved) is essential.


    Good point. But I'd suggest that being "good in one's job" per se excludes one from being great at other jobs. We need more variety. Leadership is not a quality "owned" only by those in charge.


    I was tempted to make that a second question in the initial post. Yes, I think Ed Profs should rotate back into full-time positions in the classroom regularly.


    Visionary stuff. That's the thinking we need.


    Systems are made to be destroyed ;p (Thanks for the thoughtful comment).


    Rotating into different development roles is certainly an interesting proposition.




    You are right. But I don't want them to just teach a course. I want them to teach five courses. With multiple preps. And lousy lunches. And I want them to be the counselors, second-parents, friends, and advisors that we all are for our students on a daily basis.


    Total agreement.


    I don't think the problem with education is necessarily that we have "poor leadership"; I think it's that much of the visionary leadership -- which is going on in the classrooms -- is ignored by the "professional leaders".


    "Drowning in paperwork" isn't an excuse, it's a symptom of an irrelevant hierarchy.

    - Shelly

  18. In Romania the personnel in the County resource centres do have to continue teacher a number of hours every week. I am not sure of the details or whether other authority educational services personnel so as well.

    I have been told that they consider it a waste of their time that should be devoted to supplying resources to their schools.


  19. I'm an administrator. Actually, I'm a Principal. The Principal Teacher. I never stopped teaching. I have always scheduled myself into at least a 25% teaching load. Every Principal Teacher should. My best student connections are in the classroom. My best teacher connections are about our shared teaching experience.

    How do I do this? I share the leadership of the school with everyone. Lead from where you are.

    If you want Principals to teach, then be prepared to lead.

  20. I like the idea of administrators needing to teach something. They may not necessarily need to go into the classroom, though. I can see a few sides to this:
    * so many demands are put on teachers to the point where extreme burnout is being caused; empathy is definitely needed
    * some administrators are not good teachers; you can see it when they "teach" at faculty meetings. (or does that mean that they are not good administrators?)

    Maybe the answer is a revamped evaluation system. Shouldn't they be evaluated on not only results but their ability to create a cohesive professional community within their building, district, etc?

  21. Our school is considered teacher led. All the teachers take on extra administrator responsibilities because we believe that when you have administrator, they do not understand what the teachers in the classroom are really facing and what the students really need. In this environment we share the responsibilities so that we can meet those needs because they are our own needs and our students needs.

  22. That is indeed a fabulous idea. I think teaching keeps them sharp and astute insofar as whats current in the classroom. Teaching one class a semester, or even a week, does not allow them that opportunity to encounter and create plans for the immenent student experience.

  23. The job of an administrator is a difficult one and a different job from the job of a teacher, simply adding admin. duties to teachers would still result in an educational leadership deficit in schools.

    All administrators should be former teachers and all administrators should be required to periodically return to the classroom and teach a class or two, but you can't combine the jobs and do justice to either job.

    As someone who recently returned to the classroom after many years of administration, my teaching has refreshed me and help me to understand the modern dilemmas and challenges of teaching and learning for students and teachers.

    Technology changes and so does learning, you have to stay in touch with what is happening in the classroom today.

  24. I was actually scared to click on the comments here since I am an acting principal right now:) But the conversations and points of view are really good. Next year will be my 7th year as a principal in my current building and I do realize I need to get back into classrooms more often. I started out with a bang but have slipped away from that student connection a little bit. I have been trying to think of ways to do that that would work for teachers, students, and myself. It's not a matter of IF I am going to do this next year, it's a matter of HOW to do it next year. I have been learning along side my teachers with a lot of PD lately and I would like to practice what I learn in the classroom too:) Good conversation!

  25. I think part of the solution is to rethink the boundary between "administration" and "teacher" - not to, as Joe said, just combine jobs or create one poorly-done hybrid job, but to rethink what aspects of a traditional admin job actually need to/are best done by an out-of-the-classroom leader and which need to be/are best done by a current teacher. This allows for more teacher development and leadership (and actual leadership as opposed to teachers only taking on more work and having it called leadership) as well as possibly easing the burdens of paperwork and non-instruction-related duties on principals to allow them to be in the classroom more, in whatever form.

  26. Term Limits

    I'm making this comment concerning school administrators who stay too long a the party.

    School administrators should have term limits Administrators should be able to solve the problems of their school. Too many schools in the United States are in trouble. There have administrators who have not changed their district at all. Schools have not improved and the students test scores have not increased at all. Teachers are still teaching coures that do not belong in high schools. Out-dated books are still being used in classrooms. Gangs, violence, and racial uproar still exist in schools. All of these issues afect the teachers and student. Administrators should be accountable; I am under the impression that adminstrators have taught school before they accepted a administrators position.


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