01 March 2013

Principal Term Limits?

While reading the great blog of Pernille Ripp, I came across a post she wrote back in December about whether or not principals should have term limits and it really made me think. It caused me to think so much that I am just now getting around to responding some 3 months later.

Before I entered the world of education I was a Business major who was ready to take over a family run business as the 3rd generation owner. My parents were proud but my grandparents were even prouder, especially my grandmother. So you can only imagine their disappointment when I told them I wasn't going into the family business but instead going into education. They were heartbroken and my grandmother, well, I don't think she talked to me for a few days, maybe even weeks after she found out.

Before my change of heart, I had worked with the family business for a number of years and had spent time in each and every position within the company. Why would I have done that, other than the fact that I was the child who lived with the boss and had to do EVERYTHING that was asked of me because I couldn't get fired, just grounded? I worked in every position within the company so I would know exactly what it was like for my employees to work for the company. I had to know what they were doing so they couldn't pull one over on me. I had to know what was required of them before I could ask them to do their jobs.

I feel that a principal is kind of that same position. They need to know what their teachers are doing so that when s/he asks them to do something/teach something, they know what the teachers are doing. The principal is the Lead Teacher of a school, meaning, they had better be able to teach the faculty as effectively, if not more so than the teachers teach their classes.

Pernille suggests that a being a principal should be a 4-5 year job with the principal then having to spend at least a year back in the classroom to "remember" what it's like to be a full-time teacher. If they decide to go back into the administrative office, they would have to re-apply for an open position. While I agree to some extent with Pernille, I like the idea of having a principal spend a year in the classroom every 4-5 years, I don't agree with the re-application process. I think there is a better solution that can actually have some collaboration and training built in.

Every 4-5 years, all principals must spend 1 year back in the regular classroom, but not in their own school. They should trade classrooms/offices with a teacher who has admirations to become a principal someday, a teacher who has their administrative endorsement and is waiting for a principal job to open up. By switching with that teacher, the principal gets to spend a year back in the classroom with students, at a different school, and have the ability to collaborate with the principal of the new school to help with training or guidance. Meanwhile, the teacher spends a year in the role of principal working with a different staff, at a different school, learning firsthand what it means to be a principal.

I realize the logistics of this plan might be a little hairy to work out, but I think it could be a win-win situation for both the principal (spending time back in the classroom remembering what it's actually like) and the teacher (real-life on the job training and practice where they can see first hand if an administrative position is really what they want). I would love to see something like this go into effect, but I don't know that I would want to manage the situations.

Another idea, what if principals had to spend X number of days in the classroom as a substitute teacher for the day? Meaning, the principal spends the entire day in a classroom while the regular teacher is able to work on other projects like observing other teachers or working on something for the school. What about something like that? Could that idea be more possible and reasonable? I would love to have my principal spend a day in my classroom as a substitute while I spent some time going around and helping the rest of my colleagues with technology issues and questions. I like it so much, that I might just suggest it to him tomorrow and see what he says.

No matter the scenario, I think having principals back in the classroom every so often is a good thing for the entire education system.

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