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Embed code for: MPA Clinical Job Shadow
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A examination of the duties of a school administrator.
Our day began at 7:30 A.M., with Traci discussing a matter with a substitute teacher in her office. The first order of business came after a phone call from Mark, Information and Technology (IT) director employed by the Sabis corporate office. Their discussion centered on budget reductions and how the corporate priorities will affect the school’s IT system and offerings.
Today is going to be quite the interesting day, as Traci will be covering some duties of the Academic Quality Controller (AQC), which can be comparable to a building principal. Traci’s job title is Director, with a similar job description as a district Superintendent. As she checks her email inbox, she jots down notes on a post-it for things to do later. As the bell to start the school day rings, we exit her office to go and check on “hot-buttons” 9C, 11A, & 10C to make sure that they are getting off to a great start of the day. Traci doesn’t need to poke in or make any corrections, so we head back to her office.
As we pass her secretary, Connie hands her a few more memos on reschedules, meeting cancelations, and tracking statements of hires. Once back in her office, we jump right into an important matter of a new charter school, with Sabis as the management company, opening in Georgia. Traci must find time in her schedule to be able to go down to Georgia to help with the interviewing of a director for that school and to meet with the school board that will be running the finances. Before she can find a timeframe to schedule a trip to Georgia, our meeting is interrupted. I have to step out, because a parent stops in for a surprise meeting.
The meeting is connected with an incident that happened two weeks before in which a boy was tackled into the fence at recess. This incident is in discovery with a high-priced, state attorney. Their meeting lasts about 20 minutes. Mom was showing her his medical diagnosis from Hurley Hospital. Some of the concerns that the mother had discussed with me were with regards to his mental capacity, special needs, and accommodations. We were able to talk about this incident at the last staff meeting, and it was decided that there were no more footballs allowed at recess.
After the parent leaves, we go back to “hot buttons”. We walk back down pass the rooms that we had checked at the beginning of the hour. Then, we stopped by the Student Management Coordinator (SMC) to drop off some paperwork that had been finished. Next, we have to head across the school to the Special Education Coordinator (SEC) to change contractual services. Next, we tackled a whole host of administrative tasks such as;
Review parent calendar and send to secretary
Check with secretary about MEAP reports in the mail
Put up report cards sign
Moved Senior Interviews
Send email about staff death
Send email to attorney
Submit April 26th to the interview committee for trip to Georgia
All this happened in the first two hours of the day, before the first scheduled parent meeting. The meeting is with a grandmother who is raising her daughter’s child, because the mother is incarcerated. In this meeting, we also have the teacher and student. I have asked to be able to sit in on this meeting, and I was allowed to sit-in on the meeting, because I have a good relationship with the student and guardian. I observed Traci redirecting the teacher’s comments and let the student voice her concerns. The student’s grandmother voiced a concern with consistency. The argument went back and forth before Traci pulled it together by getting them to agree to clear the slate. One of my takeaways from this experience is how important it is for teachers to bring evidence and supplemental materials for engagements like this. In looking at how this meeting could have gone better, I have to think the meeting should have started with the student’s concern first. When you do this the meeting can proceed without interruption from a student legitimately wanting their voice to be heard.
At 10:00A.M. I had to be dismissed so that the Director, AQC, and SMC could meet for twenty minutes. During my reflection time of what had happened in the last two and a half hours, I heard over the radio that a student had fled the building. I went outside to help look for the missing student. The student was found, and I could continue my reflection as Traci had to handle a private staffing issue.
For the next hour, we did some housekeeping issues. We are expecting the Vice President of the management company, Sabis, to visit our school and preparations had to be made with teachers to go to their classes for him to observe. Also, Traci had to look over individuals’ availability in order to create a time for him to meet with the administration team.
During our time together, Traci spent about thirty minutes just opening mail. There was a lot of mail that looked official or important that was actually just recycled. The reality is that Traci had to look at the sender, read through the introduction, and look at the ending to determine which pile to put the mail into. Learning to filter the mail is a skill that administrators have to learn on the job. There can be a couple piles from which mail sent to the school can be organized. The staff, the school board, and various other departments within a school often get mail addressed to the school. Even though Traci’s assistant goes through the mail, there is still a lot of mail that she cannot filter or get into the appropriate hands without being opened first.
Emails can be a very daunting task. They seem to accumulate throughout the day to where you are always playing catchup. Traci used flags to keep the important ones on her radar. She also used folders to organize them into categories. During her emailing, the MEAP Reports came in. This shifted her priorities. She would have to finish her emails after school was out.
Telephone calls will also consume a lot of time. During our time together, Traci called many people to discuss a multitude of things. In addition to previously mentioned calls, she had to call the Sabis Accountant to discuss the technology budget that she had reviewed earlier that day. Next, she called the Grant Coordinator about the Michigan Department of Education English Language Learners program. Two parents called in while she was busy, and she had to return their calls. Then she had to call the Academic Quality Controller about the assembly, the playground, schedule for outside recess, and that she could meet with the third game team at 11:27.
From 11:50 until 12:12, she is at the assembly. This is her first downtime, if you can call it that. She gets to say a few words about the hard work and dedication that it takes to be honored there and then watch as students receive their awards. The few parents that are in the bleachers snapping photos of the academic achievers. As the awards assembly finishes, Traci mingles with a few parents and then is off to the cafeteria. There has been some complaints with the janitorial staff and how well they are cleaning the lunchroom. So, she has to go there to check on the accusations, and get her lunch.
She goes back to her office as staff get the cafeteria setup for the next awards assembly for Lower School students. She finishes her lunch and a few emails I suspect, before she is back in action greeting parents as they arrive. There are more parents here for the younger students’ academic achievements than the older students earlier today. Then it’s back to her office to:
Finish School Board reports
Finish the post-it notes from her secretary
Meeting with grade 5 level team about pacing and curriculum
Then, she breaks from all of this for a parent meeting. A student on the basketball team, who has been a good student at the school, as far as not being in trouble ever, was caught stealing from the school A-La-Carte room. The grandparent (legal guardian) and student come in together with the Food Supervisor. We proceed to watch security camera footage of the student stealing a bunch of snacks from the school. Traci discusses filing a police report when the student cannot produce the stolen items. The guardian proceeds to argue about the identity of the thief. She insists that it is not her student. I take note that Traci does not argue back, instead she continues with the discussion that it will be the police officers job to determine the identity. She gives the student and guardian the opportunity to solve the dispute, but does not push them to cooperate. Instead she leaves them the option between two choices, solve this here and now or elevate this by getting law enforcement involved.
The day finishes up with an administration meeting to discuss the upcoming National Charter School Week and how the International Academy of Flint will be organizing the festivities this year. The committee goes over things that went well in the past such as a door decorating contest, talent show, and t-shirt design. The committee discusses ways to add to the event like themed dress-down days, a t-shirt design competition, and fundraising opportunities. The committee approved all the changes, and we all left to handle our end of the day duties.
The life of an administrator could be compared to a fast paced, multidirectional race with no set course, and all sorts of obstacles. In my observations with Traci, both formally and informally, I noticed that she can get pulled in any direction at any time. I believe flexibility to be a key professional trait with regards to scheduling, worktimes, and other situations. In contrast, the role of administrator demands a strict, unwavering disposition with regards to the law, personnel, and other situations. With these two oppositions in constant play, a great administrator remains versatile. The ability to apply the correct professional traits in the correct times is what we can “best practices.
I have learned many “best practices” from this clinical experience both inside of the class and out in the field. Some of the most important takeaways that I will continue to build upon are; be consistent, be fair, develop a culture of success, develop relationships based on respect, watch out for the media, document everything and most importantly the students come first.
After a friend of mine shadowed an administrator, we had a conversation about how all the things that we love about being a teacher are few and far between in the life of an administrator. Positive student interaction is minimal, you seem to spend more time handling the negative situations. Most of your stress comes from within, in that you spend a lot of time solving staff problems, which one would think would be something that adults could do by themselves. This colleague went on and on about the negatives, and I let them vent.
Since that conversation, I have spent some time reflecting about what type of person would love this supposedly awful position. I believe that some people are touched by amazing administrators, and they feel that calling to grow into a position that at times can be very lonely for the love of their community. Also, I believe that others are frustrated by the ills of an authoritarian or broken system that lets down the goals of a community. And still others, may be inspired by the love of students to make sure that kids have a safe, happy place to grow into young adults and become contributing members of society.
Our profession is pretty unique with regards to administrative structure. Each principal can supervise numerous teachers and students. When I look at other organizations such as construction, business, retail, healthcare, and the service sector, I notice that these other sectors seem to have a lower number of employee to supervisor ratio. As a district manager of a local pizzeria, I had two managers that managed about 15 employees each. Some of my time was spent on administrative tasks, customer service, and solving employee problems, but nothing like what I observed with regards to the teaching profession. I learned in our budgeting class that about 80% of a district’s operating budget was directly tied to staffing. It seems that 80% of the school administrator’s time is directly tied to mediating staffing issues. Sometimes it is issues with students or parents and teachers, teachers’ issues with each other, or budget/legal issues that demand an administrator’s time.
My experience with the Director, Academic Quality Controllers, and the Student Management Coordinator gave me many insights into the administration team that it takes to operate a successful school. One could liken these three parts to Plato’s tripartite theory of soul. The soul of a school depends on these three administrators working together, even though sometimes they may be at odds, to keep the school functioning. cademy of Flint will be organizing the festivities this year. The committee goes over things that went well in the past such as a door decorating contest, talent show, and t-shirt design. The committee discusses ways to add to the event like themed dress-down days, a t-shirt design competition, and fundraising opportunities. The committee approved all the changes, and we all left to handle our end of the day duties.
Our profession is pretty unique with regards to administrative structure. Each principal can supervise numerous teachers and students. When I look at other organizations such as construction, business, retail, healthcare, and the service sector, I notice that these other sectors seem to have a lower number of employee to supervisor ratio. As a district manager of a local pizzeria, I had two managers that managed about 15 employees each. Some of my time was spent on administrative tasks, customer service, and solving employee problems, but nothing like what I observed with regards to the teaching profession. I learned in our budgeting class that about 80% of a district’s operating budget was direc