Teachers, Administrators and the School System

This week’s reading introduced us to some concepts surrounding the profession of teaching and its relationship to administrators and the school system. The reading introduced us to who, statistically, Canadian Teachers are. It also broke down some of the characteristics of teaching as an occupation and who decides what is important and what is taught. This brought us to the roles of administration. The first thing that I took away from the reading this week is the analysis of the different roles and possibilities for leadership/administration.

By looking at different types of authority we start to analyze the role of  the administration in the relationship to the teacher. Traditional Authority is defined “as the most common type of authority. People were obeyed because they held positions that require obedience” (Young & Levin, 2008). This type of power is the power we traditionally think of when we think of administration- a principal’s opinion is worth more than that of the average teacher because they have worked their way into the role of authority based on experience and knowledge and therefore deserve to be listened to. Legal Authority is defined as “[operating] through the structural or organizational features of the school”(Young & Levin, 2008). This can vary from the fact that administration is given authority under the laws that govern education to the idea that principals are able to determine several factors which can impact the working life of a teacher. Charismatic Authority is defined as authority that “rests on the personal characteristics of the the leader” (Young & Levin, 2008). This authority is often what we refer to when we discuss the qualities of a “leader”.  Which brings up the interesting point of administration as leaders. It is clear that this a newer way of viewing the authority of administration.

The other thing that is interesting when looking at the role of administration is how it is reflective of employment equity and the goals of a representative teaching force. If we were to look statistically at the students in our classroom and compare it statistically to the teachers in the system we can see that they two do no match. The demographics in the classroom are diverse, and some may argue becoming more diverse all the time. The teaching force certainly does not match that diversity and even less so if we are to look at those in the roles of administration. There are statistically less women and people of minority status (including Indigenous Educators) in administrative roles. This is an interesting area of debate as the text sights concepts like “female leadership style” and questions concerning the actual practices as to wether or not the hiring practices are truly becoming more equitable or if they have been skewed by focus on gender-equity practices or targeted hiring.

The last point that stood out to me was the discussion surrounding ideas of academic freedom. This reading points out that unlike professors in a university who at some level are able to teach what “they consider to be important and worthwhile, even if these ideas are controversial or unpopular” teachers are “governed by provincial regulations and curriculums requirements” (Young & Levin, 2008). I would argue however that there even university professors are not entirely free. This issue again falls within the legal framework of what is required of a teacher and the text discusses the case of Harvey Keegstra. Keegstra was eventually fired for his anti-Semitic teachings. This termination was however not based on the nature of his teachings but rather on his refusal to obey an order from a superintendent to teach only the Alberta history curriculum.

Two connections that I made with the reading this week were the shift in viewing administration as simply as source of traditional and legal authority and the push to view it as a leadership position. I think it is easy to see how a constructivist approach to leadership from an administration can impact the leadership capacity of a school. That is the breadth– “degree to which the participation in the work of leadership is broad-based including teachers, administration, parents, students and community members” and skillfulness– “the degree to which participants have developed proficiency in the knowledge, skills and disposition of leadership” (Young & Levin, 2008). It is easy to see how different administration comes to different levels or styles of leadership and how that can influence the schools “culture”. Having worked in and learned a lot about leadership I can’t help but be keenly aware of the importance of this as a skill for administrators and how it impacts hiring and staffing as well as the education provided within schools.

The other connection for me comes from the ideas surrounding different approaches to leadership that can be gleamed from other professional organizations. Starting to question what would happen if schools were run like a hospital (a caring model as opposed to a factory model- although some could argue that hospitals are being pushed towards a factory model in Saskatchewan) or if we changed the way that administration was chosen (elections, limited terms, shared responsibility, etc.) brings up ideas surrounding how to better develop and refine the leadership capacity of a school. I think that one could argue that a school ran by a collective leadership team of shared responsibility may have a better impact on students’ learning. It is however worth mentioning that Education is still very bureaucratic in its nature. This means that as the system works now there is a need for a chain of command and that without some levels of reform a leadership team may not be an effective administration on all levels.

The one question that I am left with after this week’s reading is primarily surrounding the concept of a diversified work force and employment equity. As I mentioned before there is a particularly bureaucratic and business like side to the profession of education and if we were to look at the pressures to create an equitable work force I wonder if some of the hiring that is done both for administration and for new teachers if school boards are always hiring the best person for the job or if they are often hiring to meet some unspoken quota of diversity and equity- not to mention other reasons that a teacher may be hired that aren’t based on their ability to provide quality education to students within a classroom.

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