Readers discuss the nation’s biggest misconceptions about administration

administration-administorsIt’s not always teachers who face criticism in the U.S. Many school administrators say that misconceptions about their career motivations and the position in general still exist today—and many myths have survived for decades.

Even though administrators don’t always have to face some of the misconceptions teachers do, such as “Those who can’t do, teach,” the world of school administration faces its own set of stereotypes that are often times incorrect. (See “10 common myths about teaching.”)

eSchool News recently asked readers: “If you could clear up one misconception about administrators and/or school administration, what would it be?” Our goal was not only to help others understand these misconceptions, but also to learn how administrators feel they are perceived by others.

(Next page: Common myths about school administration)

Here are 5 misconceptions about administrators and school administration that emerged from readers (responses edited for brevity):

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1. They’re paid too much–especially compared to teachers

“If people think a principal rushes home at the end of the day in a Ferrari to catch the last flight to Paris for a little weekend, those people are crazy. There really isn’t a big difference between what, say, an assistant principal makes and what a teacher makes.” – John C., Calif.

“Let’s be honest: No one goes into education or administration thinking ‘Here’s where I’ll make the big bucks.’ And that applies to everyone from a local school principal to superintendents of some of the largest districts in the nation.” – Alice W.

“I want to start by saying that everyone in education is usually paid far below what is deserved, and that includes teachers. Teacher salaries start low and end low, and that’s for a college degree-required career. However, the current difference between daily teaching and administration salaries is narrow when considering the length of the work year and comparative levels of education and experience. It’s not the difference between lower middle class and upper middle class. We’re all usually earning middle class salaries…if not lower middle class salaries.” – C. Quinn

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2. They don’t know what it’s like to be in the classroom

“One misconception is that we are somehow disconnected from the classroom; that we’re not in the trenches. Many administrators are former teachers who at some point had the opportunity to take a little more control of the helm and go into administration. And many of us accepted these positions because we know what it’s like in there-and we want to change it.” – George from Ore.

“You really can’t have this ‘us versus them’ mentality in a 21st century school anymore. If everyone isn’t working together the school will fail. Many administrator education programs now have training that requires those wanting to become principals or superintendents to work with teachers on developing projects, curriculum, or finding solutions to assessments and data issues. They’re well-aware of what’s happening.” – Mel Harris, N.Y.

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3. Administrators are control freaks…

“That we never allow teachers flexibility or allow them to take risks. It’s true that if there’s a massive change (for example, an idea to flip every class taught) then sure, we’re hesitant. But just like teachers and parents, we want nothing more than for students to enjoy learning and to succeed.” – Anonymous

“One misconception is that we worry too much because it’s an issue of power. It’s not an issue of power it’s about accountability. We have to make sure we’re making the best possible decisions for our district while keeping in mind policies and compliance issues.” – G. Foster, Fla.

(Next page: More administration myths)

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4. …because all they care about is the bottom line.

“I’ve heard some people in the community get heated about how we’re too concerned with meeting AYP [Annual Yearly Progress], budget concerns, and standardized testing. We’re not all Ebenezer Scrooge, looking to pinch pennies and make children miserable. We’re just trying to work with what we got.” – A.H., Texas

“One of the biggest challenges to administration is knowing when to take a leap and when not to. There’s tremendous pressure today to go with any new type of school reform idea because it just may be the saving grace. Many times it’s becoming hard to know when to say ‘no.’ Old ways aren’t always evil, and sometimes, whether we like it or not, we need to focus on those test scores.” – Anonymous

“iPads for all students in K-12? Sure. I’m for it. Give me an implementation plan to go with them and some good ideas for classroom use and I’m set. Do we have the money? No. But we’re working on it. It’s not an excuse, and it’s not laziness. It’s life.” – Dan C.

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5. All administrators are ladder climbers

“One myth is that we’re all like politicians, especially us superintendents. If being a politician means getting real work done while also dealing with mass public scrutiny, then sure. I’m a politician, I guess.” – James M.

“Being devoted to a career path sometimes means that you hope to go further into it. That’s not ladder climbing, and I’ve never ‘stepped on the little people’ to get there, either. No administrative peer I’ve come across ever sees themselves as ‘mightier’ in some fashion.” – Crystal H., Minn.

“We don’t have that much power. We make decisions-sometimes big ones-but power comes from the nation. Power comes from the community; and from being a team. There’s a difference between being a leader and being a dictator. If there’s a principal or superintendent out there that’s just there to make a name for him/herself it’s easy to spot, and they usually don’t last long.” – Matt, Calif.