Should educational leadership professors spend some of their time as practicing administrators?

SchoolbusMichelle Young, Executive Director of the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA), recently asked whether educational leadership professors should spend some of their time as practicing administrators. This would be akin to teacher education professors spending some of their time teaching in P-12 classrooms.

What do you think? Is this a good idea? If so, is this logistically feasible for school systems (e.g., could professors have any real responsibility or would it be like doing a preservice administrator internship)? What would need to change in colleges and universities for this to work? Head on over to Michelle’s post and contribute to the discussion!

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7 Responses to “Should educational leadership professors spend some of their time as practicing administrators?”

  1. I recently left a professorship to return to K-12 public schooling in order to direct the redesign of an urban high school. Most of my college colleagues (like me) actually taught in public schools and worked as professors. I taught an undergraduate literacy methods class each week in a second grade public school classroom. This was not a unique situation and was beneficial to all.

    As a full-time public school administrator, my college teaching (in)forms my current practice greatly. However, I could never have influenced the necessary decisions from outside the public school system. It has taken a partnership that is local to begin to make the change. It is arduous and inspiring work.

  2. Lecturing (and up) is higher status than teaching in the minds of many. Identifying those who practice, and in turn those who have suffient affordance to lead in meaninful ways, de-schools and se-systemises a culture, complete with status and tenure. Teachers are novices for a short time, and experts for the longest time.

    In Australia, we celebrate selective (academic driven) high schools, dogmatic to the essay and exam. Over 90% of these students are from non-english speaking backgrounds. The way in which we choose to deny social needs (not just change), leads me to believe that it is a small few who will outreach and take a stance on what youve identified as a cultural worldview.

    The lack of action, connection and exposure to the reality of providing and managing an education system able to provide quality for all, not just a few — supports the status quo Im affraid. To me, the only realistic option is to separate qualifications from physical buildings that house immovable brains (who enjoy a wealthy lifestyle).

    As soon as kids can get quality, resonant experiences elsewhere, then we stand a much better chance of claiming to be a socially inclusive culture. As it is, it is easier to place endless philosophical arguements to sustain the lack of change. After all, we have been on the brink of change for decades.

    Make them wear a flashing badge ‘non practicing theorist at work’.


  3. I think it makes sense to “live in their shoes.” Scott, how many years have you spent as a school administrator?

    • None, which is why I try to spend so much time out in the field. I do that much more than most of my educational leadership peers. I think it’s critical to stay in touch with the current needs and day-to-day realities of principals and superintendents. I think I do a pretty good job of this (and whenever I don’t, y’all straighten me out real quick!).

      I used to say that my dream job would be an elementary or middle school principalship. Maybe one day… =)

  4. Scott,
    You pose an interesting idea, and I believe that requiring professors to serve a leadership role in schools can go a long way towards bridging the gap between theory and practice.

    That being said, the entire K-12 (and collegiate) system would need to be revamped in order to make this work. These days, even being an elementary principal is a life-consuming job, particularly if you serve in a building “in need of assistance”. I don’t see how a person could do that while also completing all the requirements of being a college professor, particularly at a research-driven university.

  5. Scott and colleagues,

    thanks for continuing this conversation here at “dangerously ! irrelevant.” It seems there is support for the idea of having faculty engaged in a variety of ways in the field of practice and that some faculty are finding interesting ways to engage. I am particularly interested in the stories about how to make the more formalized arrangements work. It seems that university – district partnerships are potentially robust sources of opportunities in this area.

  6. I don’t know how feasible the option is, but I would always contend that continuing to practice in a field in which you are a leader (ie. principals spending some time teaching students)is invaluable. For one, it allows the leader to stay abreast of issues and concerns that teachers are dealing with. This allows the principal/leader to genuinely empathize, and not just sympathize with the anxieties teachers may be facing.

    This also allows the principal/leader a chance to put into actual practice the initiatives and targets of a building/district. Much more powerful in practice than in theory.

    I understand the enormous pressure that school/district leaders/principals are under and the unbelievable time constraints to which they must adhere, but I think the potential advantages of this endeavor could be immense.

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