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  1. Factors to consider for teachers transitioning to school administrator roles

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    Teachers often think that they can do a better job as a principal than their current supervisor is doing. So the decision awaits the classroom teacher. Should the teacher make the transition from classroom teacher to principal? Although one factor may be the increased salary, the teacher needs to take into consideration the demands and requirements of this position.
    Working with the school board
    For the most part a teacher works primarily with students and fellow teachers. If one becomes a principal, it will mean increased time at school board meetings and carrying out the decisions that are made by the school board. Sometimes these policy decisions are unpopular with staff and students. The principal needs to be able to coordinate the decisions of the school board with the opinions of the staff and students to create a positive learning environment. Before becoming a principal it is essential to consider whether working with individuals from the community is desirable.
    Working with the superintendent
    The principal will work closely with the superintendent of schools to provide the best possible learning environment and quality education for the students in that district. Despite the fact that the principal will have many executive capabilities within the school district, the superintendent will make the final decision on many matters. One needs to consider the factor of closely working with other administrators in this position.
    Working with teachers
    A major transition is going from being a member of the teaching staff to being the superior to the teaching staff. For some teachers this is a difficult transition. As principal, the educator can no longer be the friend to the staff members and must embody a more professional quality. Although an administrator can be friendly, they may not be able to maintain the friend label because some objective decisions that are made may not be what a teacher desires. To make the transition from teacher to principal, a person must be willing to take on a more professional role with co-workers.
    Working with other staff
    The principal does not just supervise teachers. There are many other staff members that the principal will work with such as cooks, custodians, and classroom aides. As principal it will require communicating with these staff members and reviewing their job completion as well. There can often be personality differences with these staff members which require the attention of the principal. Also frequently these staff members do not have degrees in education and do not have the background that is necessary to handle discipline issues easily. Principals are a necessary part of training these individuals to be a successful part of the education team. A factor in consideration is whether or not one has the desire to work with these individuals in all the necessary capacities.
    Giving reviews
    One large component of being a principal is that it will require stepping into the classrooms of teachers and reviewing their teaching skills and their success in the school district. Before taking the plunge to become a principal, an individual needs to consider whether giving constructive criticism is a task that that one wants to do. Telling teachers about changes that they need to make in their teaching styles, discipline and curriculum can be difficult. It can deal with very sensitive subjects as well such as personal appearance and behavior.
    Dealing with difficult parents or students
    One of the most stressful parts of being a principal is dealing with disgruntled parents and students. Usually they are talking to the principal because they are unhappy with something that has gone on either in a classroom or another aspect of education. It can be dealing with discipline issues in the classroom or parents who are upset because a coach yelled at their child in a basketball game. The list of difficult issues that a principal deals with on a daily basis with students and parents can be difficult for administrators. This should be a factor that is considered before becoming a principal. Having a firm grasp of the school policies and observing what is happening in the classrooms can really help principals to deal with these issues.
    Being organized
    A principal who is organized is usually more successful in the position. It requires being organized with meetings and schedules as well as the mountains of paperwork that will cross the principal’s desk. Developing a system of organization can make the position of principal much more time efficient and will give the appearance of being in control.
    Being inspiring
    One of the hardest aspects of being a principal is balancing being the authority in the school with also inspiring students and staff toward success. A key component of success as an administrator is to bring ideas and personality to the position that will create the correct balance. The principal must let the students and staff know that they are cared for and supported, while at the same time be able to make the difficult decisions and stand by them. This position does require that a person can inspire those around them to do better. A teacher transitioning to the principal’s position should consider how to accomplish this.
    Keeping up with education trends
    A frequent mistake the administrators make when transitioning to the principal position is to stop being a teacher. Principals should take workshops along with their staff and not be afraid to jump into a classroom and teach a lesson. A principal should consider occasionally substituting in teacher’s classrooms because that will keep them in touch with what it is like to be a teacher. All too often administrators forget the demands that face teachers. They also need to have a sense of what it takes to teach other subjects than the one that they are most familiar. It is difficult to understand the paper load of an English teacher unless one has experienced it first hand. So an important factor in making this transition is to not forget to be a teacher.
    Giving 24/7
    Becoming a principal is being willing to be on the job 24 hours a day, seven days per week. This is not a nine to five job. It begins early in the morning with lining up substitute teachers for those that call in sick and may not end until midnight on nights of school board meetings. It means going out in public and having people approach one with problems and complaints. It means taking a phone call in the middle of the night when a student dies in a car accident. The one area that principals can never really prepare for is how demanding the hours are. Before making the decision to become a principal, one needs to be willing to live the life of a principal 24/7. There may be periods where it is not as demanding and there can be other times when it is incredibly demanding outside of the school day.
    As a teacher considers making the transition from teacher to principal, it is usually with the desire to have a higher salary. Along with the salary increase there is added responsibility and sometimes stress. Consider all of these factors before and during the transition process.
    Marijane Suttor

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