School administration is a convoluted topic and job description. There are various career paths inside its banner. Typically, you find principals, assistant principals, administrative assistants, and superintendents making up the administration.
But what does it take to be effective in the realm of school administration?
There are on average 526 students in each public school across the US. With the average teacher to student ratio of 16 to 1, there is at the minimum an average total of 559 people that the school administration has to oversee. And, that doesn’t include parents, janitorial staff, the rest of your administration, or other people involved in the school. Without organization, it would be impossible to handle that many people.
Effectiveness as a school administrator lies in a variety of avenues. But crucial to that conglomeration is an ability to organize. Organize everything from delegation to your calendar.
1.a Time management
A huge aspect of organization is time management. If a school administrator struggles with either of those, they will have a very difficult time handling their job to the best of their ability.
There are various aspects to being an organized administrator, and multitasking is a crucial one. Because there are so many different situations that you could find yourself in, you need to understand the value of prioritization and multitasking.
1.c Ability to work in a variety of environments
According to the national center for education statistics, 90 percent of school buildings in the US were built before 1985. With almost 50% of those being built before 1970. We’re all well aware of how technology and construction have changed in the past 50 years.
The world has evolved greatly, yet our schools are still trying to catch up. This constant need for repairs and construction of new buildings impacts the entire school administration. Because administrators have to take time to oversee construction. And, the constant construction can disrupt classes and make it difficult for students to focus. Thus, decreasing grades and attendance.
Therefore, in order to be an excellent school administrator, you need to be able to work well with construction workers; work in a construction zone per se, and be creative in dealing with issues that come up from needed repairs and construction.
The essential ingredient to being effective in any job, especially a school administrator, is being an expert in communication. Everyday, your job is filled with communicating to a variety of people. From your students to staff to parents to the press. You need to understand how to communicate in every situation.
2.a Understand public relations
The gist of public relations is communication. School administrators need to be excellent communicators because they have to deal with hundreds of people on a daily basis.
Respect is a complicated topic in our day and age. Everyone wants to be respected but we often forget to respect others. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person no matter how small.”
True respect comes not only when you expect respect but when you show the respect you expect.
Along the theme of respect, humility is a crucial aspect of being an excellent administrator. Humbleness is an often overlooked character trait that we all need to practice more often.
And lastly, discretion. This is especially important for school administrators because they deal with children on a daily basis. And there are many laws and customs around the world that protect children. School administrators need to know how to be tactful with their discretion and how to handle a multitude of situations.
Leadership is a key part of any school administrator’s job. You have to lead dozens of staff and hundreds of parents. Your staff can help you lead to the best of your ability. But without a commitment to excellence in leadership, your administration won’t be effective.
3.a Evaluate the effectiveness of your school programs
Evaluation is key to knowing if something is working. Without regular evaluating of various aspects of your school, you won’t be effective.
3.b Create efficient student handbook/policies
The student handbook is a vital part of a functioning relationship with your students. It will tell them what is allowed and not allowed on school grounds. As well as what the punishments will be for certain violations of the rules.
3.c Ability to make difficult decisions
School administrators have to make countless difficult decisions on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. They need to be prepared to let go of teachers who aren’t performing well. Know how to hire good teachers. They need to understand how to use their budget effectively. And countless other things.
3.d Spend time in various classrooms
Teachers are the backbone of our education systems. But, with an average of 33 teachers per public school, it’s hard for administrators to know what’s going on with each of them. Unless they regularly spend time in the classrooms.
Another important aspect of an effective school administration is a commitment to growth. Growth as a person, growth in your professional career, and growth in your understanding of the technology that surrounds you.
4.a Quickly adapt to change
The best school administrators are good at adaptation. Especially to change. Just look at what happened at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. COVID-19 forced schools on a global scale to implement distance learning in a matter of days. And many school administrators did a phenomenal job with that process. While others faltered.
We can not always be prepared for the unexpected, but we can be prepared for how we’ll react to the unexpected.
4.b Have a continuously shared vision of improvement
Improvement is the greatest currency of our time. There are dozens of ways that you can foster a vision of improvement at your school. Including improving parent-teacher relationships, technological processes, budgets, and more!
But, at the end of the day, no vision can truly be accomplished if you don’t share it and delegate it with your staff. Remember, you are not an island.
4.c Updating old systems
There are numerous systems that need to be evaluated, updated, and improved. Technological systems, delegation systems, filing systems, etc…
We live in the digital age of the 21st century. And technology is evolving so quickly that it is a daunting process to convert schools to be entirely paperless. As technology is updated, school administrators have to be educated on how to use it. More IT people need to be around to keep the technology in top shape, and countless other issues come up.
At the end of the day, it is almost impossible for them to be truly paperless. Some schools just can not afford to become paperless.
But, as we progress through the 21st century, technology is quickly improving and becoming cheaper. We look forward to a day when digital technology is available to everyone. It truly opens doors, especially in education.
4.d Become familiar with technology and work to evolve with it
Technology is quickly evolving in our world and it is becoming increasingly harder for older generations to keep up.
This combined with a lack of technological resources in some schools leads school administrators to struggle with organizational tasks and more.
There are a variety of situations and problems that members of the school administration have to deal with on a daily basis. Creativity will take you far as you strive to achieve those goals.
5.a Regulating Attendance
Poor attendance afflicts many schools for various reasons. According to the US Department of Education, 1 in 6 students misses at least 15 days of school a year. And, when you do the math to add up those numbers across the entire 12 years of schooling: students can lose up to an entire year of education instruction!
This report also highlights the fact that high schools have the highest rates of absenteeism. The COVID-19 pandemic sheds light on some possible answers to this problem. – an integrated system of in-person and distance learning based classes.
5.b Deal with the Problems causing absenteeism
Students miss class for various reasons and these issues must be addressed before attendance can be improved. If you just treat the symptoms of a problem (i.e. skipping school) instead of the problems causing the symptoms, you’re not making a lasting difference.
Poor attendance reflects badly on an administration’s leadership. Often making it appear as though they aren’t effective.
5.c Creative fundraising and budgeting
Many states and school districts across the US have a disparity of school fund distribution. Because of this, there are countless schools that are underfunded.
Underfunding is a complicated issue that many schools face. And, it has a huge impact on the school administration because they have to make the hard decisions of where to allocate the funding to. And, the money is finite and can only go so far.
Implementing creative funding strategies and budgets is essential to being an effective administrator.
Learn More about Equity in schools from the US Department of Education: Equity of Opportunity
As we’ve reviewed above, school administrators deal with hundreds of people on a daily basis. If they do not know how to delegate effectively, they will fail to thrive. Delegation is the backbone of a successful school system.
6.a Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your subordinates
We are all different and that’s how we can embrace such a diverse world. An integral part of school administration is the people who you are over. You need to know your subordinates. Their weaknesses and their strengths. You need to understand who you can push, how far to push, and when to push.
6.b Trust your staff
If you don’t trust everyone you work with, how can you expect yourself to get anything done? Trust is an intricate part of any organisation. Especially in administration. You have to trust the people who advise you and keep you informed on everything that’s happening at your school.
6.c Continuously evaluate staff
Ineffective teachers can give the overall school administration a bad reputation. Not only that, but they can also inhibit learning for entire grades of students.
Teachers are foundational to a successful school, and if there are a few ineffective ones, they could impact every aspect of your school.
Related: The Impact of Great Teachers
School Administration is a complicated topic, but it can be accomplished in an effective way. It just takes a few key steps. To reiterate those steps:
- 1. Organization
- 1.a Time management
- 1.b Multi-tasking
- 1.c Ability to work in a variety of environments
- 2. Communication
- 2.a Understand public relations
- 2.b Respect to everyone and expect respect
- 2.c Humility
- 2.d Discretion
- 3. Leadership
- 3.a Evaluate the effectiveness of your school programs
- 3.b Create efficient student handbook/policies
- 3.c Ability to make difficult decisions
- 3.d Spend time in various classrooms
- 4. Growth
- 4.a Quickly adapt to change
- 4.b Have a continuously shared vision of improvement
- 4.c Updating old systems
- 4.d Become familiar with technology and work to evolve with it
- 5. Creativity
- 5.a Implement tactics to increase attendance
- 5.b Deal with the Problems causing absenteeism
- 5.c Creative fundraising and budgeting
- 6. Delegation
- 6.a Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your subordinates
- 6.b Evaluate teachers and other staff and be unafraid to replace ineffective ones
Good luck, now go out and be the best school administrator that you can be!