Crossing over: The roles and rules of the teacher-administrator relationship
Most educational administrators were once teachers. Formal preparation programs in educational administration promote teacher-administrator collaboration and communication. However, the historic gap between teachers and administrators suggests we know little about the informal socialization process as educators “cross over” from “teacher” to “administrator.”
Although teachers come to administrative internships with prior, or anticipatory, socialization about the administrative role and the teacher-administrator relationship, the internships add on a new layer of informal socialization. This study explores the informal socialization messages that administrative interns received during the internship phase of an administrative preparation program. Delivered to them in the form of direct and indirect messages by teachers and administrators at the interns' schools and internship sites, qualitative data (audio-taped interviews and internship seminars; journals and documents) were collected from administrative candidates before, during, and after their internships.
At the juncture of the cultures of teaching and administration, the cusp of role change from “teacher” to “administrator” proved to be a hot spot that, once scratched, unearthed a host of assumptive worlds governing the teacher-administrator relationship. The interns learned that the assumptions of the teachers and administrators around them strongly govern the roles and rules of the teacher-administrator relationship. The study develops a grounded theory that these assumptions are the by-products of the organizational structure in schools—its power hierarchy. The division of labor in school organizations produces unequals who behave according to role assumptions and beliefs about power and authority. The role assumptions generate unwritten rules that serve to shape and sustain the teacher-administrator gap. These unwritten rules establish strict relationship guidelines that preclude collegial, collaborative behavior and reinforce a dysfunctional relationship in which teachers and administrators vie for power and control over one another.
Implications for preparation programs include the formal preservicing of all educators in administration, and the incorporation of reflective practice seminars for administrative candidates, which were the centerpiece of the interns' positive socialization experiences. Policy implications include the need for systemic change to flatten the hierarchy—in essence, a machine bureaucracy—in order to create a professional organization and blur the roles of “teacher” and “administrator.”
0629: Labor relations