I was a vice principal a few years ago and to be honest, I wasn’t too big a fan of the role. The reason was because the VP primarily handles student discipline matters. Personally, I didn’t enjoy handing out detentions or dealing with teachers pushing back on my push back. I enjoyed the classroom more. I had a few colleague better built for the role and they were good in their position. They were also willing to accept the politics that came along with the position whereas I was not.
Plus, when I saw first-hand what my principal dealt with, I really didn’t want her job.
Nevertheless, I did understand the politics of my organization that helped get me the role; politics can and often does come into play when applying for administrator positions. I also put myself in the best possible position to be in line for the job in the first place.
Have you ever considered jumping into administrative waters? Can you see yourself leading a school? First, you must have a principal certification. Also, you must meet the required years of teaching. But that is only the beginning of the process.
If being a principal or vice principal is what you want to do, you must do more than simply get a certification and teach for 3 to 5 years. Sadly, you must make your life complicated; the life of an administrator is complicated. You must take on additional responsibilities on top of your current workload. Taking on more responsibilities isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get hired for the first position you apply for. However, the key is to be ready when the opportunity presents itself. That means serving prospective employers a cocktail of your experience and some politics. Here are some things to do if looking to make the jump in administration:
- DEFINE YOUR CAREER PATH – Make sure that before applying for any opportunity, chart where you want to be in your career 5 to 10 years down the road. From there, create a pathway to get there. This will help focus your attention on what needs to be done next; whether its return to school or applying for your certification – or it may mean reconsidering your desired career goals altogether.
- MENTOR NEW TEACHERS – One thing administrators do is evaluate teacher performance by observing them in the classroom and offer feedback for improvement. A great way to practice this while not offending anyone is to work with new teachers. You’ll help assist them with improving while giving you valuable experience evaluating teacher performance – a skill necessary to be an administrator. Also, speak with your current principal or VP for tips on how to do that.
- SHADOW A PRINCIPAL OR VP – A great way to learn about what is involved in the work of an administrator is to shadow one during the school day. During a prep period or during your lunch, you can shadow your principal, with their approval of course. You can also ask to attend meetings with your administrators also, with their approval. You could also attend an afterschool function i.e. dance, sporting event or other activity, where an administrator is present.
- TAKE A TEACHER LEADERSHIP ROLE AT YOUR SCHOOL – Becoming a teacher leader is a great way to get your feet wet with administrative functions. You could coach other teachers, mentor other teachers, lead a professional learning community, work with administration on professional development, lead a professional development, become a content/department leader, coordinate an afterschool program or coordinate summer school. All of these look good on your resume.
- GET A GRAD-LEVEL DEGREE – Many teachers go back to school for a masters in teaching. Consider getting a masters in education administration. The course work will help provide confidence to prospective employers that you know the theory to support your practice. You’ll also feel better about your ability to do the job of an administrator. Also, take the time to not only find the right degree program, but the right institution to support your work-life-school balance.
- GET YOUR SUPERVISOR CERTIFICATION – It may be a good idea to get a supervisory certification of some kind. In New Jersey, a supervisory certification enables teachers to supervisor curricular areas and assessment. These positions are administrative and can help you enter district level administration if that is your eventual goal. Not to mention, this certification can help with acquiring leadership roles within your school and/or district that are not principal or VP positions.
- APPLY BOTH IN DISTRICT AND OUT OF DISTRICT – Simply put, don’t limit yourself to thinking you have a greater or lesser chance applying inside or outside of your current district. Apply everywhere!
- INFORM YOUR NETWORK – Make your network of educators aware of your desire and intention to apply for administrative positions and that you’d like to be informed if an opportunity arises. Sometimes, the position you didn’t expect to get comes by word of mouth or referral.
- FIND A CURRENT OR FORMER ADMINISTRATOR TO BE YOUR MENTOR – A mentor can help you as you navigate the process of finding an administrator job and can also help you once you become an administrator. A good mentor will tell you what you should be doing and what you should be thinking about. You shouldn’t be alone on this alone. Make sure that you have someone familiar with the process and the job to guide you along your way.
- BE PATIENT – it may take some time for you to find the position that you’re looking for. I have colleagues and friends who have applied for administrative jobs for years before they got hired. Just be patient, continue to do the work in order to best position yourself and have faith. The right position will open for you and you’ll be the better for it because you didn’t get it right away.
Being an administrator is tough work. Getting a job as one maybe even tougher (depending on who you ask). But you can put yourself in the best position possible to get the job you’re looking for by doing a lot of little things simultaneously. There is no magic strategy to being hired as a principal, but you must be strategic. Stay out of trouble and play your part. The higher-ups will notice your hard work and dedication. Opportunities will rise and when they do, seize them.
Let’s continue to press towards the mark!