Ever ask yourself, "am I really going to explain the Pythagorean Theorem or the meaning of the green light in The Great Gatsby for 30 years straight?”
For some of you out there, the answer will be yes, please, and thank you—and with a dash of honey. For others, it might be worth considering additional education to move up the ranks. Or you might consider striking out on your own as an educational consultant.
To cut right to the chase, here are some of the more commons roles you can take on to stay in education and still move to different levels within school districts:
These positions sometimes come with stipends…and sometimes don't. But we're not in this for the money, right? (Lolz.) This role helps you develop your leadership skills and learn to navigate the politics that always nudge their way in when groups of people work together. Department Heads are the go-betweens for departmental teachers and administrators, and their duties are often fulfilled even in the midst of full time teaching.
Vice or Assistant Principal
This role requires more schooling (a master's degree in administration is usually required) and usually a few internships along the way. In some spots, you may also be required to hold an administrative certificate. And as you might guess, you should definitely have classroom experience.
Everyone knows the head honcho. If you crave a place in the spotlight and the weight of the world (well, school) on your shoulders, this is the spot for you. The requirements for principals are pretty much just like assistants, only the addition of having worked as an assistant or vice principal before and the benefit of having everyone in the building quake when you walk down the hall.
Some school systems have directors who oversee certain parts of public school functions, like technology instruction or school food services. These positions are often filled by former teachers or ones who've held administrative positions before. Generally, folks have to work their way up through the system to get one of these roles. Yeah, directing school food services is way coveted.
This top spot as executive officer of the district often requires teaching experience, a master's degree in administration, and certification in administration. In some school systems, Assistant Super positions are specifically targeted for overseeing Human Resources, Instruction, Technology, or other specialized areas.
Oh yeah. The big kahuna of the school system. Don't hold your breath: getting there is going to take a good chunk of years. If you aspire to this level, you need a doctoral degree. You'll get a handsome paycheck, but you'll also be expected to show up at school board meetings, deal with stakeholders who don't like your decisions, and bear the lifelong headache of balancing budgets that are hacked seven ways to Sunday. Sure, you have enormous influence, too, so you get to make your mark on your region's education system. Which can make you feel good about yourself for advocating for your teachers and students. Or all-powerful when giving someone a cold, hard no. It's a pretty good place to be.
This one's a break in genre from the other guys—it's for teachers who decide they want to keep teaching but shift their focus to improving instruction through teacher development and addressing education through consulting work. Consulting has its own challenges (ain't nobody handing you an annual salary—you have to go out and get yours), but it also allows you to have flexibility in your schedule if you just really hate working mornings. Which means that you have ultimate control over how much money you make. As long as the demand is there, that is. It's not a bad shake overall.
Noticing a trend? Yeah, each new level requires continued learning and education (well, minus the last one, but we're not saying it would hurt). These are, of course, just the general guidelines, and if you're really interested in climbing the ladder and making your mark, check the specific requirements in your state, city, and county.
In general, each career step has its own requirements, ins and outs, and ups and downs, and it's up to you to decide whether that's the path for you. And hey, maybe you'll decide to stick with the classroom. Some of our favorite people on the planet have done just that.
Fine tune your ed philosophy
We don't mean you have to decide whether you're Nietzschean or Derridean before you teach a third-grade history class. (Because duh, third grade is soooo Derridean.)
But having a set of core values and a stance on some of those fun ol' perennial education debates is the Nike of teaching: just do it.
Does that mean you have to have a position on how to do it, why to do it, where to do it, who should do it, and stick to your guns forever? (1) No, because people change, and so does teaching. (2) But still kind of, because chances are you're either going to get sucked into those debates with friends, colleagues, or parents (who knows? maybe even an idealistic kiddo) or have to face them in real life on your typical day in the classroom.
Educational philosophies develop and change over time. At least, they should. So how do you keep refining the foundation of your teaching, grading, disciplining, and gum-chewing policy even while you're in the throes of scraping the Bubble Yum off the floor?
We know that by the time you read all those science fair projects and grade them, the last thing you want to do is read something else. Too bad. Grab that glass of vino, carve out 30 minutes of your precious evening, and read something that will push your philosophy.
Too much to ask? Sometimes just one book every six months can do the trick. Even a couple of articles. A headline and a crossword? Basically, you take what you can handle.
You can check out our handy list of ten books every teacher should read, but in case your link-clickin' finger is weary, here are two to get you started:
(1) Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher
For a little insight into why your kids might hate reading and what you can do about it, Readicide can help prevent readicide. That's the idea, anyway. The cool thing is you don't have to be a "reading teacher" to help kids become reading superstars. Whew?
(2) A Repair Kit for Grading by Ken O'Connor
This book has been known to spark some lively debate. It will shift your thinking about grading and the all-mighty zero, and it may even get you to push outside your comfort zone and try something new.
Enough books? No problem. When you get down to it, you really need to flesh your thoughts out beyond the pages. And what better way to do this than talking to other teachers? Even better if you create a teacher reading group that comes together and discusses what you're reading. We smell a book club.
[quote for image] My teaching philosophy is so in right now.
For teachers who read and talk about it, or even just set up a meeting for a chat, there've been reports of great discussion, changes in how some of the teachers taught, and inspiration all around. This sort of practice can help each teacher and any teacher critically evaluate why they teach and how they teach.
Added bonus: sometimes these groups can count toward recertification points. Check with your district. But don't forget: teacher growth is the real reward.
Now go rack up those points.
We know, we know…do, or do not: there is no try. Thanks for derailing our point, Jedi master. Sheesh.
What we really mean, though, is what good is reading and talking if you don't try—er, do something new? In this step of reevaluating your philosophy, it's time to see if all that theory can be put into action. If your beliefs about education turn out to be unrealistic or unattainable, it's this step that will show you that you need to make some tweaks to how you're thinking.
For example, if you want a no-zero policy (where students cannot not turn in work), this is the forum in which you figure out how to make them turn in work even when they don't wanna. Now is the time you find out if your philosophy is unreasonable. And hey, maybe you'll even get the spaceship out of the swamp.
We ask kids to do this all the time. We might call it reflection, but really what we want is for them to think about what they've done and whether or not it was effective. And just to really sock it to 'em, we rub it in by making them put it in writing.
So, when you're rethinking your educational philosophy, it's a good idea to write it down. Yeah, it's a pain. Yeah, it takes time. But it would be good to be able to see how your thinking is evolving, and these notes could work as inspiration for you at a later date. Just like with the kids and their own torture—er, reflections.
Keep a teaching journal of what works and what doesn't, and for grins and giggles pop it into your teacher evaluation documentation (if applicable to your state).
Plus, keeping that record will help you know when you've outgrown your philosophy. When that happens, you need to reevaluate and take stock of what you think. Which all these steps and ideas should help you do along the way.
Ultimately, your educational philosophy matters. That's why most training programs require you to formally write yours down at some point. And if they don't, we'll bet your spaceship to our mind control powers it'll help you out to do it. Your philosophy will shape it all—from how you think about education and how you teach down to the daily interactions you have with your students.
And you can't get much more Derridean than that…right?