What kind of academic and work experiences did the most to prepare you for your role as a department chair?
My work experience in industry was very important to me. It not only added some distance in age between myself and my students, but it was useful to have real-life experiences in the work world to draw on.
How did you become interested in school administration?
I wanted to have more of my ideas taken seriously, and I wanted the support from the administration to make that happen.
What kind of preparation would you recommend for someone who is interested in school administration?
I would strongly recommend that people who are interested in this field work on organizational skills. In this job, you seem to need to be able to do six things at the same time. Unless you are very organized, your workday will disappear before you have time to do any of the things you think are really important. Communication and human relations skills are also critical. Your main task is to develop a vision of where you want your division to go. To make that vision happen, you need to communicate the vision and involve staff members who are critical to the program's success. You have to learn to be patient with students and staff and to not take yourself too seriously. You have to be willing to listen to people and be objective. Your colleagues may have a different vision of the way they want the department to work, and their vision might be the best choice.
How would you describe a typical workday? What kinds of activities tend to dominate your day?
There is no typical workday. I usually juggle the two classes that I teach along with short-, medium-, and long-range plans. Everything is usually interrupted by things that arise on a day-to-day basis.
What are the kinds of qualifications that you look for when screening resumes for potential interviews?
I look for applicants who have amassed a variety of work, education, and life experiences. I want to work with people who can demonstrate that they are willing to keep up with the new events in technology. I look for someone who is willing to learn new teaching techniques and who has developed the "people skills" to get along with students and peers. I don't want to work with a prima donna.
If you could give a potential teacher some advice on becoming an excellent teacher, what would you suggest?
A strong teacher in this field is going to have computer/technical work experience. I would suggest that a beginning teacher learn how to work with unmotivated students. Good teachers also have a sense of humor and are willing to appreciate and laugh with their colleagues and students on a daily basis.
A high school department chair has many important responsibilities. In most high schools, department chairs teach at least one class; hire, supervise, and evaluate their staff; and provide leadership on important school and school district projects, such as curriculum development or school reform. Department chairs handle student discipline referrals from their teachers, mediate conflicts between parents and teachers, and monitor complaints on working conditions, sexual harassment, and work rules.
The role of teacher/administrator can be a difficult one to fulfill. As a teacher, the department chair must plan instructional activities, motivate students to perform well, and assess their progress. As an administrator, a department chair must enforce school policy, maintain standards for professional conduct, help teachers set goals for themselves, and measure their progress. Supervising second-year or probationary teachers brings the added stress of deciding whether to grant a teacher tenure or to dismiss the teacher. Dealing with adults in a department can be every bit as challenging as dealing with students in a classroom.
As school administrators, department chairs are expected to put in long hours of work, and they are not paid for overtime. In general, department chairs are always paid more than the teachers that they supervise, and they have many school holidays and enjoy an extended break during the summer. People who are drawn to school administration often have a strong desire to make schools work more effectively, especially for students who are not successful in traditional school settings. In order to qualify for this position, applicants must have a bachelor's degree in education and a teaching certificate, or an academic degree from an accredited college or university and a teaching certificate. Applicants must also hold an administrative certificate, and they often have earned a master's degree in school administration or a master's degree in curriculum and supervision. School administration is complex, and schools are hesitant to hire applicants who do not have firsthand classroom experience. Successful administrators have developed strong communication and organizational skills. A sense of humor and a genuine concern for young people are important qualities to bring to this job.
There are roughly 349,000 school administrators in the United States. The demand for school administrators will grow slowly as administrators retire and as the school-age population continues to expand. Salaries for school administrators varies from school district to school district.
High school teachers often have the opportunity to participate in co-curricular programs at their school, serving as coaches, activity sponsors, and music and theater directors. These opportunities typically include stipends to compensate the teacher for the additional time spent at school. High school teachers enjoy an academic schedule that allows for extended vacation time to use for additional professional growth or for time with friends and family. Salaries for high school teachers vary widely from school district to school district, but they average $34,000 per year. Salaries tend to increase based on continued education and experience and range upwards to $80,000 in some affluent school districts.