Two years ago I decided I wanted to be a school administrator (why? see here). Last week, I finished UCONN's school administrator preparation program (UCAPP), and here are four things I gained from the program (not including all the things I learned in my internship):
1) Perspective. I walked in there thinking I had education all figured out, but being exposed to other perspectives has a way of shaking up your paradigm. Somewhere along the way, through nine courses--courses like Program Evaluation, Educational Policy, Law, Supervision, Curriculum, and School Climate, my paradigm shifted. It was a shift from seeing my job as mostly about the kids who could (or wanted to) learn, to seeing it as about every single student, equally. I began to see the job of a principal as making that happen (by building capacity in teachers).
2) Practice. I'd like to think it also improved my teaching practice. Two years of poring over the CT teaching rubric, studying the new teacher evaluation system, observing teachers and practicing evaluations, and listening to my colleagues talk about their teaching, gave me perspectives and insights I'd never been exposed to before. I feel like I learned more about teaching in the past two years than I had in my previous twelve.
(Funny how that works. It proves that experience alone does not lead to improvement. Improvement takes more than that. It takes new ideas and outside perspectives. And it takes other people. It takes collaboration, because otherwise we get stuck in ruts, comfort zones, confirmation bias and the status quo.)
3) Preparation. I feel very well prepared to be an administrator. We produced school improvement plans, program evaluation plans, school climate analyses, teacher evaluations, theories of action, and curriculum plans. We looked at tons of data, from case studies, our own schools, and our internship schools. The hands on projects we did, cutting-edge readings and research we studied, case-studies and data we analyzed, and discussions we had, built on and amplified our internship experiences, and I feel like we walked away with authentic experience.
4) People. UCAPP uses a cohort model for their program. Fifteen of us spent two years together. I made new friends--lifelong colleagues I’ll be able to call on in the future. And I learned a lot from them. It was a two-year collaboration, and I was introduced to approaches and perspectives different from my own. They challenged and changed my thinking in many ways, and I’d like to think I absorbed a part of each one of them.