Crisis Management to Instructional Expertise
It’s no secret. I love to teach. And what I love to
teach is about leadership—what it is, how we use it,
and what are the essential characteristics, attitudes and skills
required to effectively implement our respective visions of
what our schools should be like.
Recently, it has been my pleasure to work with Assistant Principals
through the Executive Leadership Institute, and be exposed
to their enthusiasm and intelligence. But it has also been
a challenge to help them deal with the day-to-day issues that
arise in the context of leadership.
The role of the Assistant
Principal is difficult. Though these school leaders are usually
chosen for their instructional skills, they are relegated
to crisis management, bus and lunch duty, oversight of testing—duties
that teachers no longer perform and that supervisors must
take over despite CSA contractual protections.
Some high school Assistant Principals are straining under
the responsibility of supervising 30 or more teachers, almost
half of whom are probationary and require four formal observations
annually. These department leaders want to lead their respective
departments; they crave skill development. But they are hampered
by the reality of their own responsibilities to teach and to
APs at all levels hunger for the exhilaration that comes from
being part of a leadership team, assisting in decision-making
and formulating the direction of a school. There is much that
they can bring to the party; they want their gifts to be opened,
admired or modified. Having much to learn, they look to their
Principals for guidance and mentoring. They want their professional
skills and ideas to be shaped by the effective leaders who
guide them. They are our future school leaders.
Also keen observers,
APs understand the pressures and responsibilities of their
Principals. Often they have to miss their own professional
development because of the daily demands on their Principals
to be out of the school or deal with crises. They understand.
They don’t complain a lot, but they do challenge us to
find ways to provide Principals with the necessary support
so that Assistant Principals can be free to be the instructional
leaders they were hired to be, and free to learn and grow professionally.
It’s a hard job for Principals. Challenged to delegate
in order to free themselves for other important things, there
is often no one but the Assistant Principal to lend a hand.
Principals are pulled in many directions as well—they
must contend with shifting budgets, regional meetings, visits
from the universe of LISes, visiting teams, DOE directives
and revised mandates. Principals too, need relief.
I often think I should
call my seminars, “So You Think
You Want To Become a Principal!” The good news, in a
way, is that some participants learn that being a Principal
is not the career they desire, that they are happy being an
Assistant Principal supporting an effective school leader.
What I hope, when they leave my workshops, is that they walk
away reflective, energized and inspired to be excellent Assistant
Principals and perhaps Principals of the future.#
Jill Levy is the President of the Council of School Supervisors